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Cigarettes and Climate Change

So a few minutes ago, while walking home from the ol’ coffee shop, I passed a local store with this sign out front …

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 2.23.07 PMAnd I was thinking—THIS is why we’re so doomed.

Cigarettes, like climate change, are awful for us. There are, literally, no redeeming qualities. Cigarettes cause cancer and about 100 other diseases and maladies. They turn fingers and teeth yellowish brown. They make you smell awful, and—come winter—you’re the fool standing outside the building in 15-degree chills, puffing away. Cigarettes are awful by all measures, and this is undeniable.

That said, places like my local store sell them. As do most drug stores. And supermarkets. They sell and sell and sell—knowing many of the customers are addicts who will die of cancer because of repeated purchases.

So why are cigarettes still here? Why don’t retailers—in the name of the common good—cease peddling them? Answer: Because cigarettes make money. And while my nearby store surely gets some dough via sales of Nestle bars and envelopes, the owner needs the $10-a-pack revenue. So he sells them and sells them and sells them, and hopes people come in by the droves to buy. Hence, the sign.

The common sentiment is, “You can’t begrudge the store owner, because he has a business to run and a family to feed.” And maybe this is true. But I do begrudge him—because, at some point, someone has to stand up and say, “No. No, no, no, no, no! I’m not benefiting off the ruination of others! I’ll find another way …”

Enter: Climate change. The planet is being destroyed. It’s obvious, and 98 percent of accredited scientists seem to agree. This is no liberal hoax. No Al Gore scare-a-thon. It’s real, it’s dangerous, it’s horrible news for our future kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. We, however, refuse to do a damn thing. It’s too inconvenient; too expensive; too uncomfortable; too demanding. We tell ourselves science will ultimately figure it out. Or we listen to Sean Hannity (expert of loudness) scream away our terrors. We pass the buck, because it’s easier to pass the buck than accept responsibility.

Ultimately, this provides some short-term happiness.

Ultimately, this offers grave regret.

3 replies on “Cigarettes and Climate Change”

I believe that human activity has caused an increase in earth’s temperature. That said, the conversation doesn’t end there. And I’ve found that too many people are unwilling to answer, or haven’t even considered, the following question:

How much economic growth are you willing to trade for climate-change remediation?

So I pose that very important question to you. Better to think and talk about that than simply casting out those on “the other side”, which is what I find most people prefer to do.

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As the war on drugs and prohibition proved beyond any reasonable doubt, when there is demand, someone will supply. So, if in the name of righteousness, all stores stopped selling cigarettes, then the drug dealers would happily sell them. They would be completely unregulated and probably even more unsafe and addictive than they already are (if that’s possible). It would also be a huge windfall to organized crime, giving them even more power in the inner cities. So, by continuing to sell cigarettes and preventing that from happening, the stores actually are doing the right thing. I do agree on the global warming stuff though.

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I agree with the sentiment, but it is a dangerous path down which to start. Don’t we all ultimately make our living off of others? Didn’t you make a large part of your start off of the ruination of a certain southpaw? Doesn’t the shop owner who buys something for a nickel and then sells it for ten bucks make his living taking advantage of others? Where does it stop? Your viewpoint is utopian, but a little naive I am afraid…

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