The debate on whether or not smoking of tobacco should be banned has been in the public domain for some times. Sujata Iyer, a journalist, in her article, “Should cigarette smoking be banned”, notes that most of those who smoke claim that they continue to do so simply because they are addicted to the habit and may not be able to quit it. Therefore, the smokers believe that tobacco smoking should not be banned. Iyer in his article wonders whether it would be right to cherish addiction to cigarette smoking beyond the health of both smokers and the general public. Terry Martin who joined About.com’s cessation support forum after quitting smoking writes in her article, “The Health Risks of Smoking” that cigarette smoking poses several risks to human health including; heart attacks, blindness, osteoporosis, and stroke amidst many other lung and heart complications. She further notes that nicotine is highly addictive. Currently, in United States, the leading cause of death is heart diseases. This write up presents a discussion on whether or not a ban on smoking of tobacco is worth being effected.
Larry West, a professional writer and editor, in his, “The basics of secondhand smoke and its effect on human health”, argues that tobacco smoke does not only affect tobacco smokers, but it also affects nonsmokers through secondary smoking (1). Secondhand smoke occurs when nonsmokers involuntarily inhale cigar smoke exhaled by smokers or from a burning cigar. Larry notes that over 4,000 chemicals are contained within cigarette smoke of which more than 50 are capable of causing cancer in man. He observes that of these 4,000 chemicals, at least 250 are either carcinogenic or toxic. Because of this harm, Manish Rajkoomar in his article, “Essay on should smoking be banned in public places”, argues that it is justified for the government to ban tobacco smoking in public places (1). He notes that although, by the time the smoke reaches a nonsmoker, it is already diluted; the dilution does not make it less harmful. That is, when a nonsmoker stays in a smoky room for up to half an hour, the same would have more or less the same carbon monoxide concentration in the blood as the smoker.
Norma Chew, a retired registered nurse, in her article, “Three reasons why smoking should be banned”, notes that 443,000 deaths related to tobacco smoking occur annually in the United States (1). She argues that these high numbers of premature death affect the balance in population and put a substantial burden to the society. Chew underscores the danger of tobacco smoking citing a report by the Environmental Protection Agency that smoking pollutes the environment. The agency notes that this is dangerous to children at their tender age of growth and development. It observes that risks of sudden infant death syndrome among other health complications such as bronchitis, middle ear infection, and even asthma are high among children exposed to tobacco smoke. It is due to such risks she insists that a ban on cigarette is necessary.
Despite the danger of smoking, Rajkoomar observes that those who smoke hold on the habit. Such people defend their behavior by reasoning that the society is democratic and each and that every individual has liberty to do what pleases them. They insist that smoking is good since it relaxes their minds and enables them forget about worries. The smokers believe that putting a ban on cigarette smoking would infringe their rights. They argue that so long as they do not smoke within enclosed places where people are, those who are not interested in their smoking in open places should move far away from where they are. Pam Stushnoff, a Canadian writer, in her article, “Should Smoking be banned?” disagrees with this argument by smokers as baseless (1). If that be anything to go by, then how would children, elderly people, and infants who cannot move themselves survive this torment?
Tom Head, an officer in several Mississippi civil liberties organizations, in his article “Should cigarettes be illegal” argues that if it is true that smoking puts at risk both personal and public health, then the government should move in speed to solve this situation (2). According to him, it is not justified for the government to purport that they are enforcing other anti-drug laws, yet they cannot save the life of several people being harmed due to cigarette smoking. On the other hand, Head (2) argues that it is only possible for the government to enact public smoking bans. He says that legitimately, the government cannot restrict smoking in private. Head expresses fear that if the governments would be allowed to ban smoking in private, then probably they would enact laws which prohibit people from sleeping too little, or eating too much, or taking on high stress jobs. He submits that no one would love to experience such intrusion in personal lifestyle.
Though Head (2) agrees that tobacco smoking is dangerous to human life, he notes that the economies of many rural communities rely on tobacco. A USDA report released in 2000 documented that restrictions imposed on tobacco related products impact negatively on local economies. The report documents that thousands of farmers, manufacturers, as well as other businesses involved in distribution and selling of tobacco products, are adversely affected by the public health policies enacted to reduce the incidence of diseases related to cigarette smoking. According to the report, many tobacco farmers do not have viable alternatives to growing tobacco. Moreover, the farmers have buildings, equipments, and experience that can only be useful in tobacco farming. Therefore, burning tobacco would land these people into poverty.
Rajkoomar (1) agrees with Head (2) that banning tobacco smoking would render many people jobless. He further observes that the government is bound to lose revenues on excise duties should the ban on tobacco smoking be implemented. However, Rajkoomar argues that the government should be able to put the health of its citizens before that of individual interests. Therefore, the reasoning should go beyond economic gain and find a lasting solution for this crisis. Chew (1) agrees with Rajkoomar that smoking should be banned despite the valuable gain to the economy of the nation. According to Chew, cigarette smoking is in the long run expensive to the government and puts a lot of burden to the society at large.
Chew (1) cites CDC results, which indicated that the burden caused by smoking cigarettes is increasing. The report documents that United States spends approximately $193 billion yearly; where loss of productivity costs $97 billion while healthcare costs directed towards smoking related ailments costs $96 billion. In addition, Chew cites the 2006 report by Society of Actuaries which documents that United States spends about $10 billion annually on nonsmokers as a result of secondhand smoking. The report documents that medical costs associated with secondhand smoking cost about $5 billion while $4.6 billion is lost in wages annually. Given that this report did not include the youths, the expenses on secondhand smokers would actually be higher than the indicated $10 billion. Chew insists that tobacco smoking has little to do with a better economy. She notes that apart from the health of smokers and nonsmokers that are affected, smoking is addictive and controls the smokers resulting into a lot of time wastage. The wasted time would be of gain economically if it could be translated into meaningful activities.
Iyer (1) agrees with Chew that ban on public smoking would impact positively on the economy. She argues that most people tend to smoke more when they are in public in a group. Therefore, ban on public cigarette smoking reduces public spending on the same. The money saved overtime can be diverted to useful projects, which will improve the economy. He argues that if the money that is lost in cigarette smoking would be invested in education, then the future generations will be financially stable and debt free; a situation that everybody would like to see. In addition, Jonathan Crosswell, an editor of newspapers and other publications in his article, “Reasons why public smoking should be banned”, notes that banning cigarette smoking in public places would reduce the cost of cleaning beaches, as well as other public locations (1). He argues that in addition to environmental pollution; cigarette butts litter public beaches, parks, sidewalks as well as lawns. He notes that the act increases fire hazards since many cigarettes discarded on the ground continue to burn.
Given that approximately 45 million Americans are cigarette smokers, Head (2) argues that it is practically impossible to attain federal ban on cigarette smoking. He points out that the voter turnout in 2004 which was at 125 million was the highest since 1968. Therefore, with a high percentage of voters being smokers, any politician or political party responsible for smoking ban would definitely lose political power. After all, even if the government is determined to put a ban on tobacco smoking, it will lack adequate law personnel in order to change by force the behavior of 45 million people. Head (2) further notes that it is quite an uphill task to impose a ban on tobacco smoking since the tobacco lobby in America is one of the most powerful forces in the nation. He notes that when a new 2006 tax referendum was proposed by California, the tobacco companies painlessly invested $ 70 million in the advertisement in order to beat it.
Rajkoomar (1) concurs with Head (2) that stopping cigarette smoking is a real challenge. This is because tobacco companies glamorize cigarette smoking through advertisements. These advertisements continue to attract young boys and girls day by day despite the statutory warning on the packets. They have made the young generation believe that those who smoke are smart, modern as well as intellectual. However, amidst these doubts of impossibility, Crosswell (1) remains optimistic that the influence of smoking among the youths can be reduced. He argues that, just as the government has banned certain activities, such as taking of alcohol in public, to ensure that children do not view such and be influenced, public smoking should be given the same way of treatment. He notes that it is less likely that children would begin smoking at a tender age if public smoking is banned.
Iyer (1) argues that imposing the ban on tobacco smoking in public or banning it altogether is feasible since those who support the ban are far much more than those who oppose it. She argues that all surveys that have been conducted show that those who support the ban are more and, therefore, Head’s argument that those responsible for tobacco ban may have an end in their political carrier, may not hold much weight.
In conclusion, it is thus possible and necessary for governments to enact laws that prohibit people from smoking tobacco especially in public places. Of course, there is no real, practical difference between laws regulating tobacco and tobacco products from that which regulates marijuana and marijuana products. Therefore, if the government has a power to ban marijuana then it is inconsistent to say that they cannot ban tobacco; all that is necessary is for the government to take action.