Christian Leaders on Preventing Tobacco Use

( [email protected] ) May 27, 2004 04:10 PM EDT

Leaders and representatives from several Christian denominations, including the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the National Council of Churches and the Presbyterian Church USA, called on both presidential candidates to endorse national measures to reduce tobacco addiction within the youth, on May 26, 2004.

“Our clergy spends too much time burying mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who die because they became addicted to tobacco products when they were young,” the leaders wrote.

The Christian leaders in conjunction with leaders from other faiths have formed a coalition called “Faith United Against Tobacco.”

In the current day, tobacco use takes the top spot on the list of leading preventable causes of death in the United States. Every year, more than 400,000 people die of tobacco-related deaths and more than $75 billion is used for health care.

“We know all too well that the tobacco companies continue to spend billions of dollars to addict young and old to this deadly product. We also know that the federal government can reduce this addiction, particularly among vulnerable children, by fully regulating tobacco products, increasing the tax on cigarettes and expanding tobacco prevention and cessation services. For our children's sake, we urge you to do so," the coalition wrote in their letter.

Recent statistics also show that some 25% of high school students graduate as cigarette addicts and that 2,000 children add to that number every day. A third of these children will die prematurely because of this addiction.

"Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and it's condemning our children and youth to a premature death," said James Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church speaking on behalf of Faith United Against Tobacco.

"Reducing teen smoking and saving Americans from tobacco addiction is a top priority for our nation's faith communities. We've asked President Bush and Senator Kerry to make this a priority by implementing three goals: continuing the federal lawsuit against the tobacco companies, giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, and increasing the federal tobacco tax. These not only are reasonable measures, but they are imminently necessary to save thousands of Americans from the horrors of death and disease caused by tobacco,” said Winkler.

The coalition encouraged the candidates to enact three law: a legislation supported by the public health community giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products; legislation to increase the national tobacco tax and use the money raised to increase tobacco prevention and cessation services and to fund health care expansion for children; and the federal lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

The full text of the letter can be found online at: