From: email@example.com (Scott Andrew Selby) Newsgroups: talk.politics.drugs,alt.drugs Subject: Why Drug Free Revised Date: 1 May 1994 23:15:06 GMT Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Thanks for people's feedback. Much of this second edition has been changed. If you like this, please let me know. If you have any disagreements, please send me specific, constructive criticism. E-mail me directly (idealforliving@uclink.Berkeley.EDU) as I am not subscribed to any newsgroups or mailing lists. Before passing judgement on this, first read all of it as it is coming at the issue from a completely new perspective. This an attempt to disseminate information about the political effects of drug use from a liberal perspective - it is NOT about the issue of drug legalization and does not advocate prohibition, nor is it a personal attack on drug users. Instead, it discusses the impact of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs on people's health, world and U.S. politics, and the environment. If you like this file, send a SASE to the address at the end of the file for a hard copy and pass this e-mail file on to anyone who would be interested. *************************************************************************** __ ___ ____ _____ ___ \ \ / / |__ _ _ | _ \ _ __ _ _ __ _ | ___| __ ___ __|__ \ \ \ /\ / /| '_ \| | | | | | | | '__| | | |/ _` | | |_ | '__/ _ \/ _ \/ / \ V V / | | | | |_| | | |_| | | | |_| | (_| | | _|| | | __/ __/_| \_/\_/ |_| |_|\__, | |____/|_| \__,_|\__, | |_| |_| \___|\___(_) |___/ |___/ ******** Personal and Political Responsibility in Daily Life ************ Recreational drug use is one of the most widespread and destructive problems facing us today. Much like other matters of lifestyle, drug use is not contained entirely within either the private or the public realm, but lies somewhere in between. The ramifications of the purchase and consumption of a beer and a cigarette include, for instance, not only obvious harm to the consumer’s body, but also tacit financial support of the political causes to which the given alcohol/tobacco corporation contributes, often right-wing in nature. The successful election campaigns of North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms in 1984 and 1990, for example, were both funded in large part by profits from the alcohol and tobacco industries, of which the right- wing congressman has been an ardent supporter.1 There is an element of irony in this; the drugs that are used in the name of youthful rebellion end up benefiting the extreme-right— against which the rebellion claims to be pitted in the first place. From the point of view of activism, drugs only contribute to maintaining the status quo. Those who are opposed to the current system often believe that there is something rebellious about consuming illegal drugs. The reality is that by purchasing and using drugs, they support the establishment which they dislike so much. Their consumption also minimizes the volume of their dissent by neutralizing their activist-tendencies. From a health/social perspective things look even worse. While political setbacks can in the end be overcome, nothing can be done to bring back the four-hundred thousand people who die in the United States as a result of cigarette consumption alone every year, during which hundreds of thousands more fall victim to other alcohol- and other drug-related deaths. HEALTH Perhaps the most obvious argument against recreational drugs is the toll their use takes on the human body. Cigarettes have been shown to cause lung cancer; cancer of the pharynx, larynx, esophagus, bladder, and pancreas; chronic bronchitis; peptic ulcers; emphysema; and various birth defects (if consumed by a pregnant woman).2 Moderate alcohol consumption increases one's risk of certain cancers threefold,3 and use by a pregnant woman can cause birth defects.4 A single marijuana cigarette, often thought to be harmless, causes as much lung damage as five tobacco cigarettes.5 Marijuana also often leads to a long term lack of motivation and apathy among regular users.6 And underlying almost every drug’s list of individual problems is physical dependency (including marijuana, commonly thought to be only psychologically addictive).7 New drugs continue to be created whose health effects are not fully known. SOCIAL RAMIFICATIONS An individual’s drug habit has a profound effect upon the community of people with which he/she interacts on a daily basis. For instance, second hand smoke alone is responsible for the deaths of fifty-thousand Americans each year.8 Drunk drivers kill an additional seventy-thousand people at the same rate. It is clear that while under the influence of any mind- altering drug, one has decreased control of one’s actions. This affects both the individual and those around him/her. It is often the main factor in occurrences of assault, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and physical abuse in general. Date rape is often caused by aggressive sexual behavior brought on by drug consumption. A complete list of social problems exacerbated by drug use is too long to include in a pamphlet of this length. Even if one has never been a perpetrator in a drug-related incident, one is still responsible for such occurrences (to some degree), through drug consumption or support thereof. POLITICAL ISSUES Unfortunately, while use of illegal drugs is combated, consumption of alcohol and tobacco is promoted. Corporations consistently deny that the products they sell are dangerous. Cigarette manufacturers, for example, claim that cigarettes are neither a threat to the consumer’s health nor addictive,9 despite scientific proof to the contrary. After a Philip Morris research team concluded that nicotine is addictive in a 1983 report, the company forced a science journal to withdraw the resulting article.10 The fact is that cigarettes are at least as addictive as cocaine and heroin11 and their threat to public health is undeniable: studies have shown cigarettes to contain a horrifying array of substances, including acetone, carbon monoxide, methanol, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, insecticides, and benzene.12 In terms of public safety, the major tobacco corporations have for years had the technology to safeguard against fires caused by their products by making cigarettes that go out after a period of non-use, but still they put additives in cigarettes that increase the rate at which the product burns.13 The federal government is not doing much to stop the public health threat caused by alcohol/cigarette consumption because corporations have the United States Congress in shackles, which take the form of gifts, contributions, and campaign funds.14 In the American South, where tobacco is an important industry, congressmen are forced to support the tobacco corporations or face expulsion from office. For this reason, government subsidies exist for tobacco growers that insure them a profit on their crops.15 The corporations placate the would-be opposition in government with money, which allows them to manufacture their products unquestioned. Indeed it is only a minority of government officials who have been fighting the tobacco industry. The products and their health-hazards, however, are only part of the picture. Almost all of the corporations that manufacture alcohol and cigarettes turn over a significant portion of their profits to special-interest groups that oppose civil-rights legislation and social programs. The Coors corporation, for example, has opposed the U.S. Civil Rights Act, affirmative action, the Equal Rights Amendment, U.S. labor unions, and has been guilty of severe environmental damage in Colorado. Perhaps most conspicuously they are the founders and primary financial backers of the Colorado- based Heritage Foundation: an anti-Semitic, racist, anti-civil rights, right-wing think tank.16 Coors is not alone in its reactionary pursuits. Henry Weinhard’s brewery, for example, has used profits from beer sales to fund Operation Rescue. It is the people who live in the worst conditions, (and thus have the greatest need to fight for social change), who most often become drug addicts, attempting to escape the troubled conditions of this world instead of working to change them. This serves the interests of those who run the country: they face no threat of rebellion as long as the disenfranchised are busily involved with drugs, e.g. the rampant alcohol abuse in Native American communities. In 1989, under President Bush, the government set up a highly-selective “War on Drugs”, which gave law enforcement officials free reign to abuse their authority among society’s urban underclass, while condoning the promotion of alcohol and other legal drugs in the same sector of society. Drug production is a waste of environmental resources. Food-stuffs, which in sharp contrast are important to produce, could be grown on the land used to grow and manufacture drugs. Coca plants (used in cocaine production) litter vast tracts of land in Central and South America, as do poppies (used for heroin production) in various Asian countries. California marijuana growers kill large numbers of deer, in some areas more than hunters, in an effort to protect their expensive crops.17 Tobacco production involves heavy use of wood, burned in order to “flue cure” the product. In Eastern Kenya, Pakistan, and heavily-forested Brazil, the effects of logging for the purposes of this aspect of cigarette production have already been felt. In fact, it is estimated that one tree is felled per 300 cigarettes made.18 In addition, significant pollutants are created with the production of cocaine, alcoholic beverages, and heroin. The packaging involved for drugs is also wasteful, especially that of cigarettes, which involves plastic products such as filters, 533 billion of which are disposed of in the U.S. each year.19 Problems in the non-industrialized world brought on by legal drug corporations as well as illegal drug producers are another disturbing consequence of the drug business. Tobacco and alcohol are sold to poor people in developing nations often without any warnings about negative health-effects, especially severe considering that the cigarettes sold there generally contain twice as much tar (the main carcinogen in cigarettes) as do those sold in developed nations.20 With cigarette sales waning in the United States, the major cigarette corporations have nearly doubled international sales. Philip Morris, the largest player in the U.S. tobacco industry, has increased its revenues abroad from $8.4 billion in 1989 to $15.7 billion in 1993.21 Instead of improving their dire conditions, people in third world nations are encouraged to spend what little money they have on products that will make them more like members of the industrialized world. Cigarettes, for example, are promoted on television and billboards as a symbol of progress.22 The reality is that drug use only worsens living conditions in the non- industrialized world, where the drain on financial resources caused by a drug habit is magnified. Unfortunately, many of the targeted consumers do not have the opportunity to make an informed decision about the products that may eventually kill them. Legal and illegal drug production in the developing world affects not only consumers, but workers as well. They are abused by employers, earning scant wages picking cash crops that they cannot use for food. The employers, especially those who manufacture and traffic illegal drugs, often resort to violent means of protecting their industry. In some countries, most notably Columbia, the result is chaos. With the money obtained from selling illegal drugs, those involved in the trade have created a climate of corruption and violence throughout the non-industrialized world, as they have in many depressed areas of the developed world. ALTERNATIVES In the face of a corrupt industry, both in America and abroad, people must challenge the idea that illegal drugs should be treated separately from alcohol and tobacco, a distinction based upon the assumption that only illegal drugs are truly “drugs”. This way of thinking demonizes illicit drugs and at the same time makes licit drugs appear innocuous— hiding the fact that there is no real difference between the two categories. A prominent proponent of the legal/illegal mindset is “Partnership for a Drug-Free America”, which, in fact, is financed by the alcohol and tobacco industries. The ideas promoted by this group through print and television ads bolster the sales of the legal drug industry’s products by helping them maintain a good public image. They operate on the assumption that the public is gullible enough to believe that “drugs can’t be too bad if they are legal.” Much too often, their strategy has worked. A change in personal lifestyle can be a slow process, but luckily there are many effective methods of ending one’s drug habit. If you are addicted to drugs and want to quit, you can. Seek help or counseling if you need it. By being drug free, one boycotts both the various industries (legal and illegal) that produce drugs as well as the concept of drug-taking. Awareness and a change in personal lifestyle are both essential to effecting political change. ENDNOTES 1 (White) pp. 56-69. 2 The American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine, Dr. Charles B. Clayman, Random House, 1989, pp. 991-992. 3 You Are What You Drink, Allan Luks & Joseph Barbato, 1989, p.69 4 Health and Wellness, Edlin Golanty, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Fourth Edition, 1992, p. 292. 5 Personal Health Choices, Sandra Smith, Jones & Bartlett Pub., 1990, p. 399. 6 Clayman p. 665. 7 ibid, p. 665. 8 California Department of Public Health, 1994. 9 “Blowing Smoke at Congress”, New York Times, April 24 , 1994, Editorial. 10 “The Butt Stops Here”, Time, April 18, 1994 , p. 59. 11 “Should Cigarettes be Banned?”, U.S. News & World Report,4/18/94, p. 36. 12 Golanty p. 304. 13 (Whelan) pp. 151 and 164. 14 (White) pp. 45-71. 15 (Whelan) p. 147. 16 (Bellant). 17 “Pot Growers Killing California’s Wildlife”, International Wildlife, July/ August 1985, p. 32. 18 (Whelan) p. 172. 19 Golanty p. 304. 20 (Whelan) p. 170. 21 “Smoke, Flame and Fire”, U.S. News & World Report, April 18, 1994, p. 47. 22 (Whelan) p. 169. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY/BOOKS TO READ Booze Merchants: The Inebriating of America. M Jacobson, R. Atkins, G. Hacker. CSPI Books, Washington D.C. 1983. Coors Connection R.Bellant. Political Research Associates, Cambridge, MA 1990. (Bellant) Merchants of Death: The American Tobacco Industry L.C. White. Beech Tree Books, New York, NY 1988. (White) Smoking Gun: How the Tobacco Industry Gets Away With Murder E.M. Whelan. George F. Stickley Co, Philadelphia, PA 1984. (Whelan) Ask a local librarian for help borrowing these books or books on quitting specific substances. Please photocopy and distribute this pamphlet. For more information or if you want to help, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Ideal For Living PO Box 4353 Berkeley, CA 94704-0353 e-mail: idealforliving@uclink.Berkeley.EDU
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