Tobacco vs. Hemp

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When it comes to talking about smoking and tobacco companies, it can create a long time debate and argument from both the non- smokers vs. the smokers. Nevertheless, we are all affected by this argument because of the many other factors that surround this controversial topic. My father has just been diagnosed with lung cancer even though he quit smoking years ago. At first glance I was mad at every tobacco grower, producer and the government for allowing these killer cigarettes to be sold. Especially after we have all been educated over the years.

Statistics show that smoking causes 80 to 90 percent of cases of lung cancer. Each year, nearly 200,000 people in the United States are told they have lung cancer and more than 90,000 people die from this disease. Deaths from lung cancer represent about one out of every six deaths when it comes to cancer and lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. The World Health Organization reported that tobacco smoking killed 100 million people worldwide in the 20th century. Statistics estimate that approximately 5.5 trillion cigarettes are still smoked each year. Medical cost is approximately $5 billion a year just to treat those with lung cancer and this cost does not including the cost for other smoking related disease or ailments caused by smoking or breathing in secondhand smoke.

It makes you wonder why the government does not just make tobacco illegal and be done with it. Instead they often heavily impose taxes on tobacco. They collect mega revenue from the sale of all the cancer sticks, tobacco growers and the tobacco producers. This is where it gets complicated. This revenue makes up a large portion of the total revenue collected each year to the sum of an estimated amount of at least 40% – 45 % each year. This is the very same money that is needed and divided among the healthcare system and other government programs available. As I choke out these words and find myself in a dilemma of my own, I can see why the governments have not made these products and tobacco use illegal.

To close down tobacco companies, producers and sales of tobacco products would be like chopping off our right hand. It would affect everything from trades with other countries to the stock market. Financially it would be more devastating then the great depression and we would put hundreds of thousands of farmers into bankruptcy. Thousands upon thousands of people would join those that are already on unemployment putting an even bigger strain on a program and we would be eliminating thousands of jobs. A dilemma the governments have to face when debating what to do and how to handle the use of tobacco products. For the governments to step in and eliminate tobacco use they would need to implement a new commodity to trade, a new crop market for the farmers and a new product for the tobacco companies to produce.

There is a solution if they can get past the stigma attached. They could eliminate tobacco and start growing hemp. Yes, it is a form of marijuana, but hemp has been around for centuries and has so many uses. It was used to make rope, paper, fuels as well as many other products we use everyday. It is also used for medical purposes when going through radiation therapy and chemotherapy. This product is also enviro-friendly because it does not need to be sprayed with any pesticides and grows naturally everywhere. Unlike tobacco, which needs chemicals to burn and makes them addictive, hemp is not addictive. It can be regulated by the same laws in place for alcohol and tobacco.

Not only would hemp make a great alternative to tobacco revenues, it would add relief to the jail system and would save billions of dollars that are spent by the court systems prosecuting those who have personal possession charges. By regulating and growing hemp, it would put a major dent into the drug dealing business, which make a healthy profit and do not pay taxes. By all accounts, if they grow low-grade hemp it could actually lead to many innovative and green environment alternatives for the future. In the end it would save millions of jobs, create thousands of new ones and would be a great revenue source to replace the number one killer around the world.

I am still against drugs and will always fight to get the dealers off the streets, but to me hemp is least of all evils and does have many other uses when used properly. It is no different than alcohol when used in a responsible fashion. But do not take my word for it, research it and understand the background before jumping to the conclusion that it is only used to get high. You just might be surprised by what you find, I was.

K Waters

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