The U.S. is winning the war against tobacco. Cigarette usage among our population has declined from 42 percent in 1965 to 15 percent in 2015.
The factors involved in this decline include TV and radio advertising bans, educational programs aimed at young people, prohibition of public smoking and raising cigarette taxes. Also, de-glamorization: primetime TV showed five instances of tobacco use per hour in 1961. By 2011 that number had plummeted to one every 3.44 hours.
The Hudson Valley and the U.S. now face an epidemic of drug usage and suicide. We will not prevail over this crisis as long as we, and our young people, in particular, see alcohol consumption portrayed as fun and cool, and painkillers and drugs as the solution to every problem, health or otherwise.
The same measures used to combat tobacco could be employed to fight addiction to other drugs, and alcohol.
All advertising for drugs and alcohol could be banned, and in addition, the failed 50-year “war on drugs” could be stopped and the money invested in addiction treatment, mental health programs and youth programs.
Iceland restricted the advertising of alcohol and tobacco and increased recreational opportunities. The use of cigarettes, cannabis and alcohol by teenagers there plummeted between 1997 and 2016.
What happened in Iceland could happen in the U.S. The big “if” will be overcoming the predictable opposition of the alcohol, pharmaceutical and advertising industries.
Charles Davenport, Wappingers Falls
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