Some religious leaders in Des Moines Tuesday called on the Iowa Congressional delegation to support legislation that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products.
Reverend Timothy Bonney of the First Baptist Church of Greater Des Moines says tobacco companies were supposed to have changed their ways after the 1998 state tobacco lawsuit settlement.
But Bonney says the tobacco companies are instead now targeting different audiences, including women and girls. He cited the example of the re-designed Virginia Slims cigarette package. Bonney says the packages are now available in the "attractive" colors of mauve, teal and are half the size of regular cigarette pack so the fit easily into purses or small pockets.
Bonney says there’s also now a "Camel Number Nine" cigarette brand that comes in a black package ringed in pink. Bonney says,"The name of this Camel Number Nine evokes the perfume product Channel Number nine and the magazine advertising associated with it shows flowery images and vintage fashion. Make no mistake…the tobacco companies are going after young women to be replacement smokers."
Bonney says this comes at a time when lung cancer has surpassed breast cancer as the top killer of women. Bishop Julius Trimble of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church says the religious leaders are getting together on this issue because of the impact of smoking.
Trimble says it’s a matter of faith because it’s something they can immediately do to enhance the lives of millions of people. "It’s not a particular denominational cause, but it is a matter of faith for those persons who believe life is sacred and that life can be preserved..if we are more stringent with the use of tobacco," Trimble says.
Bonney says he agrees that protecting young people is a priority of the church and that applies to tobacco use. He cited statistics that show 90% of smokers begin the habit before they are 18. Bonney says adults are hopefully making their own informed choices when it comes to using these products, but he says children are being led into using the products before they have the ability to make an informed choice. He says they then become addicted and have struggle with the addiction the rest of their lives.
Bonney says we could reduce the number of people who struggle with the addiction and health problems if we reduce the number of people who’re mislead into using tobacco products.
They say Senator Tom Harkin was a co-sponsor of the bill in the last session of Congress and they are calling on Senator Chuck Grassley to also support the issue. The bill passed a U.S. House committee this week and is expected to come before the full house in the coming weeks.
The Des Moines clergy are part of a nationwide effort called "Faith United Against Tobacco."