Smoking is an old and highly established industry in the global marketplace. While it has proven to be a dangerous health habit, the tobacco industry makes a very strong effort to ensure that people continue to smoke as much as possible. This sample research paper examines the infeasibility of banning smoking through legislation and stresses the need to promote smoking cessation through support and information on the individual level .
Smoking as a behavioral issue
Though the effects of cigarette smoking are both numerous and dangerous, it is not an industry that should, or rather, could feasibly be made illegal. Primarily, it would be difficult to make cigarettes illegal because to smoke a cigarette is an individual liberty and the consequences are the smoker’s burden to bear. However, this is not to suggest that the status quo is acceptable. The fundamental issue behind the tobacco industry is a sort of willful misinformation that results in the most damaging effects of cigarette smoking. Ultimately, though it would certainly be the healthiest option to outright abolish smoking, it would not abolish the behavior that ultimately results in smoking. It is this behavior that continues to create the demand for cigarettes’ production and their sales. Therefore, in order to illegalize cigarette production, one would have to illegalize smokers’ behavior and their desire to smoke.
Disregarding the common-known addiction that comes with the primary ingredient of a cigarette, nicotine, the adverse health effects that occur because of smoking are both horrifying and invasive. The human body was not meant to intake these chemicals at such a staggeringly pure concentration. Fundamentally, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasize that smoking can lead to death in multiple ways. It is seemingly a hyperbolic claim, to be sure, but one of utmost truth because research reveals that nearly every major organ is affected negatively by the effects of smoking. The variety of health risks directly linkable to smoking include the following:
- Cardiovascular disease, which is “the leading cause of death in the United States” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Lung cancer
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
and a disconcerting amount of serious health issues in between. Nevertheless, addiction to nicotine propagates the habit of smoking wherein smokers ingest harmful toxins. With such awful risks in mind, the appeal of outlawing the production and sale of cigarettes is tantalizing though ultimately a pipe dream.
The effect of smoking on nonsmokers
Despite the enormity of the tobacco industry and unnervingly high death statistics that directly result from cigarette smoking, it is disingenuous to suggest that the risks stop at the individual and economics. Smoking certainly affects those around as well. Secondhand smoke is hardly a phenomenon by any means, and contributes to nearly 50,000 deaths for non-smokers, and
“in the United States, the costs of extra medical care, illness, and death caused by SHS are $10 billion per year” (“Tobacco Statistics & Facts”).
It is key to note that non-smokers also bear the burden of smokers because
“even brief exposure can damage cells in ways that set the cancer process in motion … there is no safe level of exposure to SHS. Any exposure is harmful” (“Tobacco Statistics & Facts”).
Inadvertently, the tobacco industry has also harmed those who choose not to smoke. This is especially crucial considering fetal health and development. With all of this in mind, the production and sales of cigarettes is unquestionably detrimental to humans and their development alike; however, most smokers and nonsmokers agree. Therefore, the smoker’s behavior must change.
Smokers must be reached on the individual level
Abolishing tobacco companies would be nearly impossible, so it would be wise to attempt to reach the smokers themselves. For example, in regards to crime, the government enacted laws to keep deviant behavior off the streets. Leaving the grocery store without paying for an item is illegal, so smoking cigarettes in public would be punishable by law. Dalton asserts
“Eighty-one percent of regular smokers have made an attempt to quit” (718),
so it seems that smokers are willing to stop their behavior. They only need an incentive. Constantly increasing taxes levied on cigarettes act as a financial deterrant to smoking. Based on the overwhelming amount of research that reveals cigarettes are deadly to the smokers and those around them, it seems that immediate consequences are in order. While cancer takes time to develop, financial penalties and loss of freedom, by jail, are instantaneous. Certainly, it will take time to write and approve new legislation, but in the meantime, select law enforcement officials can take measures to enforce current smoking bans and encourage smokers to quit.
The Tobacco Industry
Tobacco’s market is so massive and global that the industrialization that led to the cigarette is nearly irreversible. Huge companies such as Philip Morris with nearly unlimited resources lead the industry. With nearly 1.1 billion tobacco users and growing, it is virtually impossible to eliminate the product despite its damaging effect on both health and even economic development (“Secondhand Smoke”). Ultimately, tobacco companies have a large market of potential buyers. In fact, the article “Secondhand Smoke” reports
“up to 30% of income is spent on tobacco, reducing funds available for nutrition, education, and health care” (n.p.).
If smokers spend money for cigarettes in lieu of health or food, it seems that the debilitating effects of cigarettes extend far beyond the individual body and its health. In other words, the addiction may be mightier than the law.
Moreover, the tobacco market extends beyond the United States. Ami Sedghi reveals in her article “Tobacco Atlas: Country by Country” that in 2009,
“China was the biggest tobacco producer … with Brazil and India following behind,” and “tobacco use causes 1.2m deaths annually in China and is the number one killer of the country” (Sedghi).
The globalization of the tobacco industry is also yet another preventative measure to ensure its growing presence. It is extremely likely that it is an economic giant that is impossible to truly ever stop, especially when
“revenues from the global tobacco sales [are] estimated to be close to $500bn … more than $1,100 a second” (Sedghi).
Thus, smokers’ addictions enable these corporations to become wealthier and in return they willingly give their health.
The reality of outlawing smoking
While illegalizing tobacco sales and production companies seem like the easiest solution, it would not decrease the buyers’ habit or their need. One alternative is to increase the legal smoking age to deter smoking in young people as California and Hawaii have done. Australian Craig Dalton, author of “Banning Retail Tobacco Sales: Time for a Discussion,” explains:
The rationales for partial bans in Australia are that they limit non-smokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke and assist smokers to quit smoking by creating obstacles to smoking. There is no doubt, the bans—intended to be cruel to be kind on smokers—achieve these objectives. We justify the bans through the beneﬁt to society in health-care dollars saved and the gift of health to ex-smokers. However, while there is a kindness, there is also an undertone of cruelty behind these policies. (718)
After all, as history has shown, prohibition does not necessarily deter consumption. While Americans have decreased the areas in which to smoke, such as bans in smoking in bars or buildings, Dalton’s observation is accurate in that the smoker’s behavior, as well as his or her cigarette, is banned. Therein is the “cruelty” (718). Bans publicize the user’s behavior. Clearly, the surgeon general’s warning prominently printed on cigarette packs does not decrease the need. While it may be cruel to isolate smokers, it seems there is no other choice.
Illegalizing cigarettes is the safest approach, but it is not easiest. Overall, liberties allow individuals to make their own decisions. Unfortunately, using and abusing dangerous substances is also an individual right. However, all choices are not legal. Nevertheless, because tobacco use is not in the same realm as murder, others still recognize it as socially acceptable behavior. While illegalizing tobacco is not an easier task based on its consistent revenue, it may be feasible to redefine its overall use and consumption as unacceptable and deviant behavior.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 01 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Sept. 2013. .
Dalton, Craig. “Banning Retail Tobacco Sales: Time to Start the Discussion.” Drug and Alcohol Review 31.5 (2012): 718-20. EBSCO. Web. .
“Secondhand Smoke.” Secondhand Smoke. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2013. .
Sedghi, Ami. “Tobacco Atlas: Country by Country.” The Guardian. N.p., 23 Mar. 2012. Web. 24 Sept. 2013. .
“Tobacco Statistics & Facts.” ASH Action on Smoking Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2013. .