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The double standard in tobacco

Consumption is restricted and dangers are warned, but at the same time there are expensive tanxes and addictive ingredients are allowed

Elements per muntar un caliqueño exposats a Juneda. Foto © Albert González Farran
Elements for assembling at the 'caliquenyo' exhibition in Juneda. Photo © Albert González Farran

I have just published in the Segre newspaper a report on the caliquenyo industry, a business that became very popular during the second half of the 20th century in small towns such as Juneda, Torregrossa, Fondarella and Torres de Segre. Shortly after becoming a very powerful activity and in the process of being legalized, it ended up collapsing due to anti-smoking campaigns and legal restrictions. What hurt caliquenyo the most was that smoking was banned in bars, the most common place for its consumption. But in addition, the liberalization of this market at the end of the 90s, until then monopolized by the public company Tabacalera Española, did not change anything. Its successor Altadis has always controlled the tobacco distribution and marketing .

The small producers of caliquenyos in Juneda have disappeared. And vanished also a good way to make tobacco, where the basic ingredient was just roasted leaves. The only additives were honey, vanilla, crushed almond, orange peel, chamomile, wood, magnesia, resin, ash, cognac and rum. Even to fix these cigars they used a glue made of water and flour. Now, certainly caliquenyos that are marketed through Altadis have a much less natural composition.

I agree that by definition smoking is unhealthy. But what I do not accept is that the public administration legalizes a commercial activity that not only causes serious damage to the human body, but gives freedom to incorporate both chemical and toxic products, as well as high concentrations of nicotine to promote addiction. I find it indecent.

It is unfortunate that there is not only this double standard in the tobacco industry, and I find it even more immoral that taxes (and therefore profits for the public system) are applied to the consumption of a toxic product than benefit just a few.

As told me Carlos Castelló, son of Liberto Castelló (one of the tycoons of Juneda's caliquenyo), the tobacco business has existed for centuries and will always exist. Young people will smoke because their generation will mark it as such, most addicts will not be able to quit and there will be fewer and fewer companies that will profit from it. They will ban it and raise the prices, but the profits will still exist. But the industry will be forever far from the popular reach, far from the families who decades ago could survive by rolling up their caliquenyos.

This is regrettable.

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