This paper reviews the age old argument regarding the use of tobacco and whether it is a harmful substance. An opinion will be presented towards the end concerning the banning of possession of tobacco from society. Arguments from both sides – that is, those that support the banning of tobacco possession and those against the banning – precede the final opinion. An analysis of the social and legal environment regarding tobacco usage is also reviewed. The paper begins with the nature and usage of tobacco in society.
Tobacco is extracted from plants for a variety of uses such as pesticides and medicines. However, the more renowned application of tobacco is for the purpose of consumption through chewing, smoking and snuffing ( Student’s Encyclop? dia) and this will be the primary focus of this paper. Tobacco smoke contains a variety of chemicals, mainly nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. Nicotine is the addictive component of tobacco. It is as potent and harmful as cocaine and heroin. The mood of an individual and the brain functioning and behavior is also changed after a nicotine dosage.
Tar is the factor that causes lung cancer and a variety of other diseases. And carbon monoxide when inhaled substitutes oxygen in the body and affects the proper working of the lungs (help with smoking). There has been a long standing debate on the issue of tobacco consumption and whether it is a harmful substance that causes various forms of cancer and an assortment of other diseases. I personally believe that tobacco is harmful and addictive and a menace, rather a parasite in today’s society.
While tobacco manufacturers have led us to believe that it is a matter of personal choice and any one can quit if they so desire, that is not the case. My own experiences include spending time with peers who have been smoking for a prolonged period and wanting to quit for a number of years. Most of them have been unable to do so despite years of struggle. Based on my own observations, I believe that not only is tobacco harmful, it is fatal in the long run. And the pain that accompanies the death is tantamount to pure torture.
Therefore, I believe that tobacco usage should be banned domestically. To further illuminate my position, in case of any ambiguities, I present a statement by Victor L. Crawford, who was a trial lawyer for the tobacco industry: “One day I was sitting in one of the smoke-filled rooms in the Tobacco Institute – they all smoked – and thinking, My God, maybe we’re on the wrong side of this issue, because I can hardly breathe! ” (Crawford). Take the example of the United States of America.
More than four hundred thousand people die on a yearly basis due to cigarettes. Health care cost more than seventy five billion in 1998 due to cigarettes. In the year 2004, more than two million people started smoking and almost seventy percent of these were under eighteen years of age (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). These results just barely scratch the surface of the seriousness of the issue at hand and before proceeding to the rest of the arguments in favor of banning smoking, the views of tobacco advocates are presented first.
One of the most common arguments made by the people who are against banning tobacco substances (mostly the tobacco companies) is that tobacco usage is a matter of personal choice. They support this claim by claiming that the nicotine content in the cigarettes for example is very low and is not sufficient to cause addiction. As mentioned earlier, nicotine is the addictive factor in cigarettes and other tobacco products. However, according to a previous article in the Washington Post, tobacco companies have, over the period 1998 to 2004, increased the content of nicotine by an estimated ten per cent.
The greatest nicotine increases have been observed in brand names that are primarily targeted towards the youth (Brown). Another argument is that of the economic benefits provided by the tobacco industry. For example, nearly three million people were employed by the industry which also contributed over ninety five billion dollars in salaries and more than sixty four billion dollars in tax income for the government in the year 1994 (Friends of Tobacco). Tobacco companies state that the vast amount of benefits provided by the industry cannot be overlooked or replicated by anyone.
Finally, the tobacco industry has taken many steps to be viewed in a positive light. For example, the Canadian tobacco industry has planned to launch an increased campaign on their “no sales to minors” policy, and also offer some insight into the addictiveness (or lack) of tobacco (Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada). The arguments against smoking and tobacco usage are obvious and mostly pertain to health reasons. Firstly, tobacco consumption has been proven to increase the likelihood of cancerous ailments, primarily lung cancer.
For example, a research carried out by Young, Leather Dale and Sloan has shown that women who had ever smoked in their lives either first hand or second hand (passive smoking) would face a higher likelihood of breast cancer. Moreover, besides the increased chances of cancer, there are other health problems related to smoking. For example, smoking has adverse effects on one’s eyesight, heart, brain, skin and liver just to name a few. Passive smoking is equally hazardous to a person’s health. It has been shown that second hand smoking increases the chances for heart disease (SirGan).
Also people smoking in their houses in the presence of children is even more dangerous as children have weaker lungs and the chances of other diseases such as asthma increase in the child and if the child is an infant, then it can be even more serious. Besides for the vast amount of health related issues, the cost of tobacco products is also a restrictive factor. Chain smokers can run yearly costs up to thousands of dollars in addition to the health related costs they will have to incur in the years to come.
As it has been established that smoking is addictive, people who smoke infrequently will most likely become addicts later on and also have to incur these higher costs. Quitting tobacco addiction is not as easy as most people think. Some of the symptoms of quitting smoking include coughing, insomnia, and overeating (SirGan). To avoid having to go through an excruciating rehabilitation process, people should never start smoking or quit in the present rather than procrastinate. Regarding the arguments of the advocates of tobacco consumption, several rebuttals are possible to negate their claims.
Their argument regarding that of smoking being a personal choice is easily refuted. Tobacco contains addictive components – that is a fact. Also, as most people start smoking or chewing tobacco in their early or teenage years as impressionable youths, it is not a case of what these people think as it is a case of what these industrialists make them think by using popular advertisements or celebrities lighting Marlboros. Additionally, the argument related to economic benefits from the tobacco industry is also not difficult to counter.
On one side are the thousands of employees and the money they are earning as tobacco producers. On the other side are the millions who are smoking and chewing tobacco and causing irreparable damage to themselves, their loved ones and the people whom they smoke around. And all the time, most of these people want to quit, cursing themselves for their inability to do so, just because they are addicted to these cancer sticks. Besides the physical damage that they are inflicting, they are also being tormented emotionally and psychologically. Progressive social change can occur only if laws are enacted to enforce this change.
Social control has a positive relationship with the law in the case of bans on tobacco products. In 2004, Ireland earned the distinction of becoming the first nation to prohibit tobacco usage in indoor public spots such as restaurants. This caused a “ripple effect” and many countries such as New Zealand, Italy, Scotland and Norway followed suit and banned smoking in all public places (Schmidt). The level of tobacco usage has decreased due to this legislation and people who do not smoke do not have to suffer in the company of smokers and smoke passively.
This shows the coexistence of the two variables that is law and social control in a positive relationship. Canada has a chance of becoming the first in North America to ban smoking as the major political parties in the country are planning litigation against the tobacco companies for the healthcare costs of the past 3 decades. At the very least smoking will become cost prohibitive this way (The Health eZine – Canada ). This is a great example that shows how laws can be used to incorporate social change.
A disadvantage of using law as a regulator for change is that people might misconstrue the intentions of the regulators and think that they have been forcefully denied their right to freedom and expression. Applied to the tobacco scenarios, this will cause the tobacco users to perhaps be offended by the actions of the government and the tobacco producers will stop providing the taxes that they are but I believe that in the end society will benefit through these actions. Law has a positive relation to social change and social control if enforced and implemented properly.
In the case of the tobacco industry, stricter laws are essential to make the possession of tobacco unlawful so that people do not inflict harm upon themselves through tobacco consumption and more importantly upon innocent people. Tobacco should be used for medical purposes by hospitals and to kill insects but not to kill people! If people cannot give up smoking on their own even if they know it is in their best interests, stricter laws demanding prohibition of tobacco need to be implemented for the good of the people.