Resolution Adopted by the CCAR


Adopted by the 107th Annual Convention of the
Central Conference of American Rabbis
March, 1996


Protecting Children from Tobacco Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the US. Sadly, our children are key targets of the tobacco industry advertising and marketing. Statistics show that the average teenage smoker starts at 14 1/2 years old and becomes a daily smoker by the age of 18. Moreover, 90% of all smokers begin before the age of 18, and more than one-third start before the age of 14. Sixty-seven percent of those who use smokeless tobacco begin before the age of 12. Studies have shown that if people do not begin to smoke as children or teenagers, it is unlikely they will ever do so.

Tobacco advertising (e.g., Joe Camel) and promotional activities are highly successful at persuading children to smoke: everyday, 3,000 children and teenagers start smoking and, between 1991 and 1994, smoking increased 30 percent among eighth-graders alone. Today, at least 3.1. million adolescents smoke.

The Jewish tradition teaches that we are all created b'tzelem elohim-- in the image of God--making each human life as precious as the next. The Torah teaches us to "choose life" and, according to Maimonides, obliges people to avoid things that are detrimental to the health and the body and to condition themselves to things that heal and fortify it. Smoking clearly falls into the former rubric and can easily be deemed by Jewish sensibility as harmful and therefore unacceptable.

Rates of tobacco related diseases are higher for people who begin smoking when they are young. These illnesses include lung cancer, emphysema, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States; it is responsible for 1 out of every 5 deaths each year.

In August, the FDA proposed steps to protect children from tobacco, which is addictive and lethal. The proposed regulations serve to limit access of minors to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco through restrictions on sales and to reduce the appeal of tobacco by restricting advertising and promotion. Such limitations on commercial advertising have been upheld by the Supreme Court. Successes in places such as New Zealand and Canada shows that such restrictions cut both tobacco consumption and the number of smokers. Specifically FDA proposed regulations would:

( Establish 18 as the federal minimum age for the sale of tobacco products.
( Require retailers to verify age of purchaser.
( Prohibit cigarette vending machines, free samples, mail-order sales, self-service displays and sale of single cigarettes.
( Ban outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.
( Restrict outdoor tobacco ads to black and white, with no picture images.
( Restrict tobacco ads to text-only in magazines with large teen readership.
( Prohibit distribution of tobacco promotional items (e.g., baseball caps and T-shirts with cigarette logos).
( Prohibit tobacco brand-name sponsorship of sporting and cultural events. Corporate-name sponsorship would continue to be permitted.
( Require manufacturers to sponsor a national tobacco-free education campaign.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Central Conference of American Rabbis:

1. Urge that we take all steps possible in our congregations, schools, and organizations to deter the use of tobacco by our children.

2. Support the FDA's efforts to reduce tobacco advertising to youth and decrease tobacco use by children.