What Can the Anti-Tobacco Movement Teach Us About Kicking Our Fossil Fuel Addiction?
A dangerous product that has millions of people addicted. A vast industry becoming enormously wealthy off this addiction. A powerful lobby spending fortunes to protect that industry. Does this sound familiar? Fifty years ago, Big Tobacco held much the same position of power and influence as the fossil fuel industry does today. The health sector, knowing the health risks of smoking, urged companies and Congress members to divest from tobacco, with great success.
As this article in Roll Call suggests, health professionals should take the same stance against fossil fuels, for the same reason. Carbon pollution is already having major impacts on the public health, including an increase in respiratory diseases, cancer, and heart disease, and costing billions in health care. The author calls on the surgeon general to issue a warning about the health hazards of climate change. The health sector and Congress should divest from fossil fuels, and the oil and gas companies should be held accountable for costs to public health.
Join health professionals and other like-minded leaders in ending our dependence on fossil fuels and embracing healthy energy solutions. To learn how to get involved, visit MomentUs.org.
Gary Cohen, Contributor to Roll Call
In the 113th Congress, members took in more than $40 million dollars in campaign contributions from oil, gas and coal companies — the same companies that receive $37.5 billion in U.S. subsidies. We’ve seen this dependency on corporate money before, during the tobacco wars of the 1960s. From that campaign, we learned how critical divestment is for social change.
Kicking an addiction is never easy. It’s particularly hard when it involves an entire society — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Health care professionals have fought relentlessly against tobacco addiction, with considerable success. It has been an impressive campaign, in which divestment from tobacco companies played a major role. We pushed Congress to divest their campaign contributions too. Now 193 members haven’t taken any tobacco money in 10 years and have been certified “Tobacco Free.” Between 1965 and 2009, the number of people that quit smoking doubled and billions of dollars in health care costs were saved.
As Congress now knows, we’re up against the same old tactics for a new dangerous addiction: fossil fuels. We built our entire global economy on a fossil fuel infrastructure and watched fossil fuel companies become among the wealthiest corporations on Earth. This addiction, like smoking, is incredibly hazardous to our health.
Image credit: Matt Trostle/Flickr