I recently read an opinion letter to the editor in a newspaper column about smoking bans. The title was “If smoking is so bad, why hasn’t the government made it illegal?” Good question.
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Smoking has been a debatable issue for decades. Laws have been enacted to control its distribution and content, and more recently, states have been placing smoking bans on their ballots for voters to choose to limit smoking or ban it altogether in public places.
With the growing concern over the health risks associated with smoking, not just for smokers, but for those exposed to second-hand smoke, state legislatures felt compelled to protect their citizens. But are the laws really effective or necessary and by enacting such laws, are we limiting people’s freedoms?
The twenty-first century has seen a dramatic switch in the role of tobacco in the United States. The cash crop that used to drive the economy and that helped to form class systems in the United States is now a controlled substance. With recent advances in medical technology and communication ability, widespread concern has arisen over the use of tobacco and the overwhelming statistics that indicate its use is deadly.
Are laws uncalled for, however? Are they really necessary to protect the public health? If we didn’t have them, how could public smoking be controlled? Or does it even need to be?
According the group “The Truth”, smoking kills more Americans every day than any other type of illness or accident. This group spreads public awareness of the risks involved with smoking. Needless to say, they are anti-tobacco. Groups such as this one have made the public more aware of the costs of nicotine addiction. In turn, the awareness has brought on public outrage at tobacco companies and manufacturers of tobacco products, cigarettes specifically.
Citizens are demanding that corporations who manufacture cigarettes pay medical expenses and wrongful death for thousands of families who lost loved ones due to lung cancer or other tobacco related deaths.
While there is sense in making tobacco companies publish their findings about addiction and reveal what is in the cigarettes to those who may choose to purchase their products, are state wide smoking bans sensible? I say no.
There are already laws in place that make purchasing tobacco products for anyone under the age of 18 illegal; therefore, technically only adults have the choice to purchase cigarettes. At this age, there should be enough information available and learned for each individual to make the choice to smoke or not.
Secondly, smoking is notoriously affiliated with the night life and with social settings where alcohol (also a legal substance) is served. Many people who socially drink also socially smoke, or vice versa. Banning smoking in public places, including restaurants or night clubs places unfair restrictions on the owners and proprietors of these establishments.
If that weren’t strict enough, the laws also ban smoking in private clubs as well and provides for strict penalties, fines, and other implications for the owners. Patrons complain and have been spending more time partying or having get-togethers at home, where they can smoke.
Home is about the only place many states allow smoking anymore. Since tobacco is a legal substance and is not technically “controlled”, people should have the freedom to smoke in public. Private establishments, both restaurants and clubs alike, should have the authority to make the decision to allow for smoking or non smoking facilities. These establishments pay high taxes to their city, state, and the federal government, and they are being over regulated.
Adults carry the responsibility of their own health. They have the capacity and ability to make the choices affiliated with many things, and choosing to smoke or not smoke is not excluded.
States should back off and allow establishments to provide their own guidelines. People have the choice to visit that establishment or not. Right now, there is no choice for the smokers. They deserve rights too.
Tedrick, Georgia. “If smoking is so bad, why is it legal?” 2/9/2007 http://wnewsj.com/main.asp?SectionID=42&SubSectionID=131&ArticleID=152948