General Synod Statements: Tobacco

The General Synod has voiced the church’s concern about the use of tobacco products by expressing its opposition to cigarette advertising on television (MGS 1953, pp. 166-168), by encouraging voluntary abstinence from smoking (MGS 1964, p. 219), and by urging a well-directed effort to acquaint youth with the facts and dangers of smoking (MGS 1964, p. 220). In 1984 the General Synod directed the Reformed Church in America and all its agencies to divest itself of all investments in the tobacco industry “inasmuch as that industry runs contrary to the biblical vision for health and stewardship of the earth” (MGS 1984, p. 85). (MGS 1992: 127)

In 1992, the Commission on Christian Action reported to General Synod that

Government measures to reduce tobacco use and to educate the public about its dangers deserve the support of the members of the Reformed Church in America. Efforts by the United States trade representative to open foreign markets to United States tobacco sales are another matter. While the Commission on Christian Action recognizes that the United States government assumes certain responsibilities regarding access of United States exports to foreign markets, those responsibilities do not include the right to interfere with other nations’ attempts to deal with public health issues. By responding positively to tobacco firms’ insistence that foreign restrictions in tobacco promotion and use be treated as a trade barrier, the United States government ignores the rights of those nations to deal with what is clearly a public health concern—a concern which the United States itself seeks to address in its domestic health policy. (MGS 1992: 129)

The 1993 General Synod voted to adopt a resolution “to instruct the general secretary to write to the president of the United States and to key members of the U.S. Congress, urging support of legislation which increases taxes on tobacco products and designates a portion of that tax revenue for educating the public about the health effects of tobacco use.” (MGS 1993: 104)