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Tobacco industry ropes in teen smokers

Readers' Letters
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Estevan, 15, who had his first cigarette at age 8, smokes with friends on a Friday evening in O'Bryant Square. Federal statistics show that Oregon is one of the easiest places in the country for youth to illegally buy cigarettes.

As PR spokesperson for Altria Client Services in corporate responsibility, it is disingenuous for Paige Magness to give the impression that the tobacco industry is no longer targeting minors, and that it has their health and best interests at heart (Tobacco firms don't want kids to smoke, Readers' Letters, Sept. 8). To say so is totally irresponsible. After all, it is minors that the industry has always focused on in order to create lifetime consumers of their products.

Only because the industry has been forced to concede its deception in court battles has it had to change its ways in the U.S. Let's not forget, though, that there are other markets around the world they are focusing on, and the primary market now is Asia, where Big Tobacco has free reign to addict youth at will. Anyone familiar with the culture can attest to the prevalence of smokers in those countries.

For Paige Magness to say that the industry does not 'want kids to be able to buy or use any tobacco products' is a flat-out lie, and Magness needs to be held accountable to that statement.

How else does the industry intend on selling its products - to an older, more educated demographic that is well aware of the dangers of smoking, as well as the deceptions the industry has perpetrated on the public for generations?

In his book, 'The Tipping Point,' Malcolm Gladwell shows how making larger, more 'threatening' warning messages on tobacco products actually promotes teens to try smoking. Why? Because teens typically are drawn to try things that society says are dangerous or taboo.

Sound familiar to anyone who was a teen once?

The tobacco industry knows this and are the ones who helped draft these 'changes' that were supposed to inhibit smoking among teens. Take a look at any recent tobacco ads and you'll notice how large the warnings have become over previous years.

So when Paige Magness goes on to say that 'we encourage states to enforce their laws … selling tobacco to minors,' she means it in the most sincerely ironic and, again, deceptive way.

Sean S. Doyle

Northwest Portland

Potatoes not a staple in Irish diets

A recent letter from Brian A. Cobb, 'Nutritious food shouldn't break the bank' (Sept. 15), caught my eye. While I would agree generally with much of what Mr. Cobb has to say, I must correct one historical fact.

He states that 'until the potato famine of the 1840s, the Irish lived for millennia in largely good health on oatmeal, milk and potatoes.'

Potatoes are indigenous to South America, not Europe, and were introduced to Ireland only in the late 16th century. They became an Irish dietary staple in the 18th century as the rising English demand for beef drove Irish peasants off their land, curtailing their access to the grain and milk mentioned by Mr. Cobb.

The indigenous peoples of the Andes relied on potatoes 'for millennia,' along with a variety of other essential crops, but the Irish depended on potatoes for only a few decades prior to the famine - a tragic example of the dangers of mono-cropping which we can ignore at our peril.

Robert W. Keeler Ph. D.

Professor of Anthropology and Geography, Clackamas Community College

Southwest Portland

Voz money should put others to work

The front-page story 'Laborers hold out hope' (Sept. 1), which profiled the Voz Workers' day-labor hiring facility on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, omitted a couple of significant facts.

First, as noted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, some 84 percent of day laborers are illegal immigrants. Second, the Voz facility does not require its users to provide proof of legal U.S. residence.

Today, 380,000 Oregonians either are unemployed or working only part-time. And yet, during the past several years the city of Portland has committed hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars to help illegal immigrants find work through Voz's facility.

It is immoral for Portland to undermine the job prospects of unemployed Oregonians. Here's a better idea: Rather than undermine U.S. law by subsidizing illegal immigration, Portland should require all businesses within its jurisdiction to register as users of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's automated 'E-Verify' program, which helps employers assure their new hires are U.S. citizens or legal residents.

Richard F. LaMountain

Northwest Portland