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The Daily Tar Heel

Government's Policy On Marijuana, Tobacco Hypocritical

For 23 years, the third Thursday in November has been designated the Great American Smokeout. Initiated by the American Cancer Society, the Smokeout has evolved from a grassroots effort to encourage smoking cessation for just one day to being the one day a year, including New Year's, that the highest number of smokers decide to quit - and for good reason.

Cigarette smoking is the United States' most preventable cause of death. Tobacco kills more people each year than AIDS, heroin, crack, cocaine, alcohol, car accidents, fire and murder combined.

Moreover, a person's addiction to cigarettes is comparable to that of heroin in its severity and form. Withdrawal symptoms exist for both, and tobacco's relapse rate (75 percent) is right on par with that of crack cocaine.

Cancerous tobacco products are legit to sell over the counter, and tobacco farmers still receive some of the highest farm subsidies, yet cigarette smoking is America's No. 1 killer!

With facts like these being just the tiniest tip of the iceberg, the hypocrisy of our government's treatment of tobacco is, frankly, infuriating.

All the while, possession of a different kind of "cigarette" can be enough to land you in jail lamenting a permanently marred record. Hypocrisy has always abounded in our government's treatment of marijuana, and, when some other facts and figures are presented, I hope I won't be the only one wondering why - if so many souls a year (according to the ACS, from 1990 to 1994, 430,700 people per year) die of smoking-related diseases, compared to 0 deaths related to marijuana smoking through the centuries - is the "killer" legal while the "calmer" remains classified as a dangerous narcotic?

Many millions of Americans toke regularly, yet cannabis smoke, as of December 1997, has never caused a known case of lung cancer.

There are irritants involved with any kind of smoke. Although cannabis smoke causes mild irritation to the large airways of the lungs, these symptoms abate when smoking is discontinued. Tobacco smoke, on the other hand, causes long-term, permanent damage.

I'm not saying that tobacco should be illegal; on the contrary, I think the freedom of choice is of the greatest importance. These facts and comparisons are merely food for thought.

If they've piqued your interest, and you'd like to learn more about our government's capitalistic, hypocritical and hurtful methods of drug classification (among other things), please come to the next meeting of Carolina NORML on Mondays in 103 Bingham Hall or check out or

Vivian Kathleen Hancock


Journalism and Mass Communication

The length rule was waived.

Hancock is a member of the Carolina NORML board of directors.

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