September 23, 2014 · 28 Elul

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Statement Of Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director, Religious Action Center Of Reform Judaism, On President Clinton's Executive Order Aimed At Curbing Underage Smoking August 23, 1996

WASHINGTON August 23, 1996- In signing an Executive Order defining nicotine as a drug and nicotine products as drug-delivery devices, the president has today affirmed that which the Reform Jewish Movement has long been committed to -- the health and well-being of our children. By forging ahead with regulations which will limit access of minors to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, and reduce the appeal of tobacco by restricting advertising and promotion, President Clinton is standing up for America's youth by making this historic direct assault on the tobacco industry.

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 instructs us to "choose life," and, according to Maimonides, to avoid things that are detrimental to the body and health and to condition the body to things that heal and fortify it.

The use of tobacco, which is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, is a betrayal of our obligation to seek full and healthy lives. We are mindful, moreover, that tobacco remains the most preventable cause of death. Let us not continue to allow our children to inflict harm upon their bodies through cigarettes. In a world in which each day 3,000 of our children and teenagers begin smoking, we must join the president in curbing this deadly addiction.

Daily we pray for a full healing of mind, body and spirit for those who are ill. Let us not add our children, who are innocent prey to the tobacco industry's advertising and marketing campaign, to the roll of those already suffering. May our youth, who are the future of this nation, go from strength to strength. The Reform Jewish Movement is resolved to actively combat tobacco use by children. The Executive Order the president signed today is a welcome and important action, one which makes the future brighter, healthier, for our children.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,700 Reform rabbis in 850 congregations throughout North America.




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