Monday, May 11, 2009

Should Cigarettes Be Banned?

I strongly support illegalizing cigarettes due to their devastating effects on our society. One in every five deaths in America is due to tobacco. More than 400,000 Americans are killed by tobacco use every year and this trend continues as millions are still using tobacco products especially cigarettes. Every year, health cost and lost productivity costs the United States almost $150 billion. “For each pack of cigarettes sold in 1999, $3.45 was spent on medical care due to smoking, plus $3.73 in lost productivity, for a total cost of $7.18 per pack.” However, beside so many problems it “is the single most preventable cause of death in our society.”(American Cancer Society)

Tobacco originally grew in the Americas. Native Americans were the first one to use tobacco products and Christopher Columbus introduced tobacco to the Europeans, as he got tobacco leaves as gift from Native Americans. In earlier times it was considered as a mere cure to many diseases from toothache to cancer! And this is the main reason as to why it became so popular in Europe. However, in the 17th century there came a major reversal in the popularity of tobacco in Europe after it was found to cause addiction by Sir Francis Bacon. Since then the laws against tobacco had started to accumulate and in the same century Massachusetts banned smoking in public places. As time elapsed, more health risks about smoking were uncovered and eventually after the 1960's drastic health complications and hazards due to smoking became clearly evident to public through researches and reports such as “the Surgeon General’s report.”(University of Dayton)

Nicotine is “colorless liquid that turns brown when burned and acquires the odor of tobacco when exposed to air.” Nicotine was discovered in the early 1800’s and since then many researchers have tried to figure out how it acts on the human brain—affecting our desires. Most of the cigarettes available today contain at least 10 mg of nicotine. Nicotine is absorbed in the body from any tobacco product, from cigarettes it is absorbed by inhalation, from cigars, pipes and smokeless tobacco it is absorbed through the mucosal membranes. “Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use, even in the face of negative [dangerous] health consequences” and nicotine makes tobacco fit into this category. Addiction to cigarettes is what makes smokers not to quit smoking; nicotine is responsible for addiction in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Nicotine is addictive because of its unmatched ability in controlling the feelings of pleasure. The chief chemical involved in controlling the desire to use drugs is the “neurotransmitter dopamine.” And research shows that nicotine increases the level of dopamine in our nervous system. Almost every smoker admits that tobacco is harmful and some also try to quit smoking it but most of the time they fail in doing so as statistics show that only 7% of those who quit smoking “on their own” can live without smoking for more than a year. (National institute on drug abuse research report series)
As the smoker continues to smoke due to addiction he continues to take in other harmful chemicals contained in tobacco smoke. Cigarette smoke if found to contain at least 4000 ingredients of which 50 are carcinogens. Some of the commonly dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes smoke are “arsenic, acetone (used in paint stripper [ . . . ]), ammonia, carbon monoxide, cyanide, mercury [ . . .] lead.” Many dangerous diseases have been linked to occur due to these lethal substances. (Canadian Cancer Society)

Long lasting diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are all thanks to cigarettes. We saw drugs creating a disastrous impact on our children's future. We banned it. We saw health enhancers creating future problems with athletes. We banned it too. Now we have cigarettes in front of us which are still legal and are highly capable of causing severe tissue damage—causing lethal diseases-- and often leading to death.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States. It leads to the development of cancer of the lungs, kidneys, liver, larynx (voice box), larynx (throat), stomach and other body organs. Among all these cancers, lung cancer is the most easy to occur due to cigarette smoking as more than 80% of all lung cancer deaths are due to smoking; however, it is the most preventable form of cancer.

Cigarette smoking also effects the normal functioning of the lungs. At least 7 million people suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) –chronic-bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis occurs when there is excess production of mucus by the lungs to protect it from harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, and this forces the smoker to severely cough. Emphysema occurs when tiny sacs of tissue that make up the lungs are distorted. The smoke inhaled from a burning cigarette makes it extremely difficult for the lung sacs to function effectively and therefore restricting oxygen supply to the blood and this endangers the smoker’s life.

Heart disease is the number one killer in America. Cigarette is the fuel to heart diseases. Smoking weakens the heart and increases the risk of a smoker or a non-smoker getting a heart stroke. Not only that, smoking also diminishes the sensory abilities of smell, taste and touch. (American Cancer Society)

Whenever it had come to banning cigarettes in public places, the tobacco industry claimed that cigarette ban would be bad for businesses like restaurants and bars. The impartial Zagat survey of the impact of New York City’s smoking ban confirmed what every other credible survey has shown: Smoking bans are popular with the public and pose no economic threat to restaurants, bars or other businesses (American Heart Association). California banned public cigarette smoking in 1998 and saw economic growth. Non-smokers freely dined at their favorite restaurant without the worries of secondhand smoke.

At this time when national security is on the nation’s priority list, wouldn’t a clean environment for children be on our priority list? Doesn’t this give a clear hint why cigarettes should be banned? Many smokers have the feeling "it’s my life; I will do whatever I want to". In a democratic society as ours, that statement is true; however, if the actions by one person leads to harm to the other, then such actions are not tolerated. This is the case with smoking. When a smoker smokes, his/her smoke severely affects all those who are in his/her vicinity. Second hand smoke is more dangerous than “directly inhaled smoke” by smoker as it contains the same obnoxious ingredients but in greater quantity. Second hand smoke consists of mainstream smoke—smoke from the smoker’s lungs and side stream smoke—smoke from the burning of tobacco. Mainstream smoke is the same as “directly inhaled smoke.” Every year, second hand smoke kills more than 1000 people in Canada. Canada is sparsely populated when compared to the US. This should give us an idea how severely second hand smoke could affect people in the US, especially in populated cities. The risk of being attacked by second hand smoke is in almost every place. A person exposed to second hand smoke is at the same risk, or perhaps more, of acquiring the mentioned dreadful diseases as would be a smoker.
“In addition to the suffering and loss caused by second-hand smoke-related deaths and the direct medical costs associated with long-term illnesses, there are significant indirect costs related to second-hand smoke. These costs include: increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, higher insurance premiums, higher cleaning costs, increased property damage resulting from tobacco use by smoking employees.”

One can be a victim of second hand smoke “at home, at work, at school, in public places such as restaurants and bars, in vehicles such as the family car.” The risk of exposure to second hand smoke could be anywhere, and the only feasible solution to this problem is through illegalizing cigarettes. (Canadian Cancer Society)

When the nation is focusing on statements like: Our children are our future shouldn’t we be worried about our children’s health? Cigarette manufacturers have secretly manipulated doses of nicotine and subjected the “slow poison” to minors. Exciting commercials, misleading information dissemination and wide promotion has lead to an increase in teenage smoking. Nearly all-first use of tobacco occurs before high school graduation. Smoking hurts young people's physical fitness in terms of both performance and endurance—even among young people trained in competitive running.

“Teens who smoke are three times more likely than nonsmokers to use alcohol, eight times more likely to use marijuana, and 22 times more likely to use cocaine. Smoking is associated with a host of other risky behaviors, such as fighting and engaging in unprotected sex.”

Low nicotine cigarettes make children good bait. Subjecting children to flavored cigarettes with low nicotine content, a platform is made focusing on making children completely addictive so that they grow up and become a potential customer. A simple thought – would you like your children to start with a flavored poison only to see a loved one go in a direction you never wanted him/her to go? (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

If we all know that cigarette is a slow poison, why should we ever allow this menace to exist? A portion of people would argue that banning cigarette would cause cigarettes to enter the black market. This question was also raised when drugs were made illegal. Does this argument hold true in anybody’s mind now? Let us also demolish the black market of cigarettes if one arises! Drawings by artists that show a cigarette dangling in the mouth of a skeleton explain it all.

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