It kills 350,000 Americans every year. Six to nine times more addictive than alcohol, it is also eight times deadlier. Addiction to it is harder to treat and cure than addiction to heroin, and it leads to a higher incidence of fatality. Yet the drug is so easy to get even children can buy it. And what's more, the production of this dangerous drug is subsidized by the U.S. government.

Unholy Smoke

The drug you guessed it is tobacco, nicotine.

Last fall, Dr. William Pollin, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that while illegal heroin has 400,000 addicts across the country, nicotine has over thirty million.

And let's not forget that cigarette smoking also causes lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema, and it is suspected to be the cause of a number of pregnancy complications, including fetal injury and premature birth.

Just what is our government's stand on this deadly, addictive drug? That appears to be anybody's guess. On the one hand, the government spends monies to campaign against cigarette smoking. On the other hand, it spends even more tax dollars to subsidize tobacco production on 182,000 farms in six southern states. Recently, Congress killed a proposal to have tobacco labeled "addictive."

The question in some observers' minds is whether this most pernicious of drugs will eventually be outlawed. Well, judging from our government's equivocal policy toward smoking, I can answer that question with a definite "maybe." To which I will add, "But don't count on it." The issue is really a very complicated muddle. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake. Untold billions of dollars for state and federal revenues are at stake. The power of big business is at stake. Five southern states grossed 2.6 billion dollars from tobacco sales in 1983. Believe it or not, there is greater interest in those figures than there is concern over the 350,000 dying yearly from tobacco.

When you consider the hue and cry we raised over the tragedy in Jonestown, where the fiendish Jim Jones coerced nine hundred of his followers to fatally poison themselves, or the outrage we felt over the loss of fifty-eight thousand young Americans in the Vietnam War, it's hard to believe that right here at home 350,000 smoke themselves to death every year to almost no protestation. What possible good can come from this government-sanctioned criminality?

Obviously, something should be done. But what? It should be something constructive, something realistic.

I was a pack-a-day smoker for seven years, but when I took up Krsna consciousness I found that I would have to give up all intoxicants. From theBhagavad-gita I learned that I am not this material body but an eternal spiritual soul, part and parcel of God. I also learned that I am the eternal servant of God, not the servant of Philip Morris and R. J. Reynolds. This understanding helped me immediately. t decided to no longer be a slave of tobacco. I vowed to chant the Hare Krsna man tra whenever the urge for a cigarette hit me and to not stop until the urge went away. After about two weeks the urge went away and just never came back. I haven't touched a cancer stick in twelve years.