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We are vending addiction to our children.

About 50 years ago in a small town in Iowa, five youngsters from the least underprivileged, most well-educated families were arrested for climbing up to the town's water tank, breaking into it, and swimming in the community's only water supply. The town invested in a much needed swimming pool, and the offenders grew into civic-minded adults.

It's a given that some kids have always wanted to rebel-it must be an instinct. Perhaps the good Lord made Homo sapien adolescents adventuresome and rebellious to ensure that changes would continue to occur on planet earth.

Since we don't want kids to get into serious trouble that requires unthinkable punishment, we were amused to hear about a group of youths who were rebelling for the public good.

This posse of protesters was using glue guns to immobilize unattended cigarette vending machines wherever they were found selling their wares to children.

To check out the problem we visited a few such places, including a laundromat which attracts children from a nearby elementary school with video games, candy vending machines, and Coke machines. Another enticement is an unattended cigarette vending machine. As we watched, an 11- or 12-year-old black youngster bought a nicotine-addictive pack of cigarettes and lighted up. His school is not a busing school. He must walk past this attraction twice a day. It raised our ire!

Do the kids buy the cigarettes to show their ability to break the law that's printed on the outside of the vending equipment? Or can we really expect elementary-school children to read the fine print?

Of course not. Laws should confine cigarette vending machines to bars and other places where children aren't permitted. But time after time such proposed laws are defeated in state legislatures where they are introduced. Is that because the powerful tobacco lobby pours money into campaign coffers?

Do politicians just give lip service to the smoke-free year 2000" because it prevents them from having to tackle the Tobacco Institute now? The kids we saw becoming addicted will be graduating in the year 2000!

Former first daughter Amy Carter was arrested for protesting what she perceived as evil. Some kids are little rebels without a cause-dead set on getting into mischief. Others would like to go to jail for doing something for the public good. They're the ones who are gumming up the works in the cigarette vending machines. If a youngster buys a package of cigarettes from a vending machine, he isn't likely to be arrested, but if he then shoots the coin slot of the vending machine full of Elmer's glue in order to be arrested, would the immoral vending-machine merchant get arrested too or lose a license to sell cigarettes? More Tobacco Billboards for the Poor

A recent New York Times article reported an uproar over cigarette billboards in poor areas. A large photo depicted a lithe beauty touting Virginia Slims on a billboard in a Detroit inner-city neighborhood. The Times article emphasized that blacks suffer from more tobacco-related illnesses and that far more tobacco billboards appear in their neighborhoods. Little children on their way to school get a message every day that the way to be happy is to smoke cigarettes, according to a congressman who hopes to introduce national legislation aimed at encouraging cities to replace such billboard ads with public health messages. In the meantime, a few impatient protesters are attempting to protect their schoolchildren by defacing the billboards with graffiti of their own.

Red Cross to the Rescue?

A year ago the Presidential Commission on the HIV Epidemic made the following recommendation to the President:

"As soon as is practically possible, but no later than July 1, 1989, agencies which license and certify health care facilities should make a condition for licensure, a program to notify all recipients of blood or blood products since 1977 of their possible exposure to HIV."

They also recommended: "If licensing agencies do not take such immediate steps, Congress should then enact a law that requires it."

The year is up! Yet letters continue to come to us from hapless blood transfusion recipients who have gone from pillar to post getting inappropriate treatment without being given the simple, easy-to-administer, inexpensive AIDS screening test-all because they and their doctor(s) never suspected AIDS. Or perhaps their doctors don't test because they are intimidated by the constantly changing state AIDS laws that require written consent from patients before the test can be given. (See page 96.)

Why shouldn't the Red Cross take the initiative in offering free tests to all who have had blood transfusions? Not because it is too expensive; a review of the American National Red Cross would reveal accumulated net assets of 969,544,000 as of June 30, 1988. Their total revenue for the year ending June 30, 1988, was $984,354,001.

To test an estimated 15,000,000 persons still living who have been transfused would hardly make a dent in their wealth.

The AIDS Commission was told it costs $4 each for the armed services to test their personnel for AIDS. This amount includes the cost of the ELISA screening test (and the confirmatory Western blot test on all positive results). The Red Cross, the commission was told, does millions of tests on blood donors at an average cost of $3 per person because they have fewer positives that need the more expensive confirmatory Western blot test.

If it cost $3 to screen every living blood transfusion recipient, the Red Cross could budget the 45,000,000. This is just a small fraction of their accumulated wealth. They could handle the testing in the same manner they efficiently test their blood donors.

Their loyal volunteers would come forward to help, and the Red Cross' image would be enhanced.
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Title Annotation:open access to cigarette vending machines
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1989
Words:962
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