Re: “Washington smokers now get vaccine priority. Our gut doesn’t approve; our head does,” (TNT, 4/8).

This News Tribune editorial smacks of the condemnation of millions of Americans. Your editorial board’s condescending words lack decent respect for human beings based on having used tobacco, a legal, addictive substance.

Although you tried playing both sides of the issue, the indignation for people with a history of smoking was not well disguised.

Access to the COVID-19 vaccine for people with a history of smoking was only given days before the entire population became eligible. Two days before your editorial was published, President Biden instructed all states to make the vaccine available to all adults within two weeks.

Yet, you were offended that someone who had the audacity to put a cigarette between their lips should be allowed access to a life-saving vaccine.

You asked, “Why should someone who won’t kick a self-destructive habit have an edge over someone who makes good lifestyle decisions?”

Would you be so insensitive to people with other so-called “habits”? Do people who don’t exercise often enough deserve to live? What about someone who eats Snickers? Big Macs? How about someone who uses other addictive drugs? (Nicotine is powerfully addictive.)

Your viewpoint is reminiscent of arguments used against people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, in the early stages of that disease. They brought the disease upon themselves was the outcry from uninformed and unenlightened people.

Thanks to AIDS advocates, society looked deeper and became more compassionate to that cause. Similar accusations haunt people diagnosed with lung cancer, regardless of their smoking history.

As Americans, we care about the vulnerable and understand that inherited and environmental influences in a person’s life may contribute to them being susceptible to diseases or addictions. We are evolving as a society to learn how to offer help to people addicted to illegal substances and prescription drugs.

Again, as Americans, we also believe in the power of redemption and overcoming hardships. We all have faced and overcome new challenges, especially considering how this pandemic has impacted each of us in one way or another.

A loved one gone. A job lost. Relationship vanished. Dreams quashed.

The impact of this pandemic has hit everyone — even those “who won’t kick a self-destructive habit.” Your editorial regards people with a history of smoking as less than deserving of a vaccine.

Sadly, your perspective is not unique. Unfortunately, when it comes to tobacco use, our society has lost its compassionate way.

The unintended consequences of antismoking public service announcement campaigns is that we transitioned from condemning the act of smoking to condemning the people who smoke.

Rather than condemning tobacco users, a better way of addressing the issue of tobacco use is with compassion, as we do with other addictions and diseases.

A compassionate, practical response to this population group is encouraging them to get vaccinated. Because, as your editorial correctly pointed out, they are at significantly higher risk for having complications or dying from the virus.

Offering encouragement — instead of condemnation — also could help them overcome tobacco addiction so they can go on to live a long, healthy life.

The concept is simple: Turn on the light instead of cursing the darkness.

Cindy Langhorne-Hatfield of Lakewood is lung cancer program director for the Caring Ambassadors Program, Inc., and co-leader of the Lung Cancer Action Network (LungCAN). Reach her by email at Cindy@CaringAmbassadors.org

You can read Cindy’s article online here: https://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/article251021409.html
You can read the article this is in response to here:
Washington smokers now get vaccine priority. Our gut doesn’t approve; our head does