To the editor:
On May 9, I had the unique opportunity to attend the Philip Morris International annual shareholders' meeting. As a youth advocate for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, I work to prevent my peers from smoking, and to resist the countless attempts by the tobacco industry to market their deadly and addictive products to us. I attended the meeting to ask Philip Morris International to butt out of public health policies, so youth around the world won't become addicted to their deadly products.
Globally, tobacco kills one person every six seconds, and almost six million every year. In West Virginia, one in five people will die every day from tobacco related illnesses and some of them will never have smoked a day in their life. An even more troubling statistic is the average starting age of a West Virginia smoker is 12 years old.
This September, cigarette packs were supposed to be covered with graphic warning labels. Now, due to lawsuits launched by the tobacco industry, this life-saving public health measure has been put on hold. This is the type of tactic the tobacco industry uses to interfere with public health efforts around the world.
Tobacco use isn't only a problem in West Virginia and in the U.S., it's a problem all around the world - especially because tobacco companies like PMI have increased their investments in places like Indonesia, home of the "smoking baby," with weak public health restrictions. Tobacco companies can pass out cigarettes to kids and advertise at concerts.
To mark the PMI shareholders meeting and World No Tobacco Day on May 31, I'd like to ask other residents of the Ohio River Valley to become a part of the movement to stop tobacco industry interference. Talk to someone you know about the dangers of using tobacco, or advocate for smoke-free parks or schools. Together, we can work to stop Big Tobacco's tactics at home and abroad.
Tobacco Free Kids