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Becky Anderson, Fargo, Published November 01 2012

Letter: Tobacco interests own Berg

A national group that tracks tobacco’s political influence, Action on Smoking and Health, reports that Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., has accepted $18,000 in campaign contributions from the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry is not just any business. It is a manipulative business that pushes a highly addictive product that, when used as intended, kills.

The latest surgeon general’s report states that 80 percent of adult smokers begin smoking by age 18 and that tobacco companies spend billions of dollars promoting cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Much of this promotion is designed to attract new users from the ranks of children and young adults so they become addicted early and make them customers for life. One-third of the kids who keep smoking into adulthood will die prematurely from smoking.

As a respiratory therapist, I see the daily suffering of adults who started smoking as kids. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the third-leading cause of death in this country, and smoking is by far the most common risk factor for causing this chronic disease. Eighty to 90 percent of all people diagnosed with COPD are either current or former smokers. The link between tobacco use and disease has been well-known for 50 years.

Surely, Berg knows that tobacco use costs North Dakota hundreds of lives and millions of tax payer dollars each year in tobacco-related health care costs. Tobacco companies put profits over human life. By taking a tobacco contribution, Berg is directly benefiting from tobacco’s addiction of our residents and of our kids in particular. This, in my opinion, should disqualify Berg from representing North Dakotans.