Saturday, July 26, 2008

the cigarette diet

Posted By on Sat, Jul 26, 2008 at 12:35 AM

I just spent the last half-hour vegging out in front of CNN's online video coverage. That's what happens when the house is TV-free, you find yourself trolling the Internet for news videos at midnight on a Friday.
After a week of talking about almost nothing but the economy--it seems that whether I'm at a business lunch, a concert or a in the middle of an interview the economy just keeps creeping in--I happened on a slew of economy-related news on CNN.
A woman who killed herself the day of her home foreclosure; yet another foreign analysis of the U.S. economy; how a tighter budget affects relationships and marriages ...
But there was also this trumpeting tidbit: New York City's uber-rich mayor Michael Bloomberg and gazillionaire Bill Gates have teamed up to throw a half-billion at smoking. In CNN's story, Bloomberg says if we do nothing smoking will kill a billion people by the end of this century (he also brilliantly quips that "smoking is preventable" while Gates beams with approval next to him). A billion, huh?
Let's do something radical here and think about this logically. Not one smoker in the United States is ignorant to the long-term health effects of smoking--in particular the one really permanent side effect we could simply call death. Not one. Beyond the United States, the situation is no different. I've bought cigarettes in developing countries. On the outside of each pack is printed a skull and crossbones or disgusting and graphic photos of lungs, fetuses or cancer-ridden mouths. People get it. Smoking will kill them. Do they need a couple of self-righteous non-smoking billionaires launching a campaign to reiterate what they already know? No.
What they need is money to feed their kids. What they need is money to keep a roof over their head. What they need is money for medical care. What they need is money invested in their futures.
That wealth is distributed so unevenly in this world is shitty, but it's also just a hard fact of the system we've created. But don't add insult to injury by choosing to piss away money telling people something they already know. Do something real to help.
One out of every 171 Americans is losing their home. 850 million people--almost all of whom are in developing countries--don't get enough food. And yet Bloomberg and Gates are worried about a billion people who knowingly made a decision that could kill them.
I know these two men are well-traveled. Are they so isolated in luxury that they don't see what's around them? I've fed starving and half-naked homeless kids in the streets of Bolivian cities. I've given money and food to gangs of malnourished street kids in Cambodia. I wear a bracelet on my arm everyday because it was a purchase from a kid in Morocco who wouldn't have eaten that day had I not given him two Euro for the jewelry.
And yet, Bloomberg and Gates toss out $500 million on cigarettes. I assume neither of them has ever been a smoker. Too bad, then they'd know that in the absence of food, a cigarette curbs the appetite every time.


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