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Debate: Smoking

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-== Motions == 
-* This House Would Ban Tobacco 
-* This House Would not Smoke 
-* This House Would Declare War on the Tobacco Industry 
==References== ==References==

Revision as of 19:42, 29 September 2008

Should there be further restrictions on the advertising, selling, and smoking of tobacco? Should it be banned?


This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Thomas Dixon. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.


Background and Context of Debate:

Tobacco is one of the most widely-used recreational drugs in the world; mainly in the form of cigarettes, but also in cigars and pipes, and in combination with cannabis and marijuana in 'joints'. Although most countries put age restrictions on its use, over a billion adults smoke tobacco legally every day, and supplying this demand is big business. As well as having serious health consequences for smokers themselves, the pollution of other people's atmospheres with cigarette smoke also makes this an environmental issue.Attitudes have changed rapidly over the past twenty years. In the developed world, public opinion has shifted against smoking. By the 1990s, the sheer weight of evidence had forced major tobacco companies to admit that their products are both harmful and addictive. Many governments have substantially increased taxes on tobacco in order to discourage smoking, and often to alleviate the economic costs of smoking-related illness. However, while smoking has declined amongst some groups, it has increased amongst others - particularly young women. Meanwhile restrictions on the industry in the developed world have seen a new emphasis on developing nations, and new markets. Key questions for this debate are: Is it the proper role of government to legislate to protect citizens from the harmful effects of their own lifestyle decisions? Does tobacco advertising increase tobacco consumption? Do health warnings, however much of the cigarette packet they cover, reduce consumption? What would be the effects of banning smoking in all public places, or even completely?[1]

Protecting smokers - Should governments ban smoking on the basis of protecting smokers themselves? Does this outweigh considerations of freedom of choice?


With little doubt that smoking is harmful to individuals, governments should take actions to protect its citizens and ban smoking: There is little doubt that smoking tobacco is extremely harmful to the smoker's health. In the US, for example, research by the American Cancer Society suggests that tobacco causes up to 400,000 deaths each year - more than AIDS, alcohol, drug abuse, car crashes, murders, suicides, and fires combined. World-wide some 3 million people die from smoking each year - one every ten seconds - which estimates suggest will rise to 10 million by 2020. Smokers are up to 22 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers, and smoking can lead to a host of other health problems, including emphysema and heart disease.One of the main responsibilities of any government is to ensure the safety of its population; that is why taking hard drugs and breaking the speed limit are also illegal. It would therefore be reasonable to ban smoking - an activity which kills millions of people each year.[2]

Smoking is not a real choice, as nicotine is an addictive drug: In fact, recent allegations suggest that tobacco companies deliberately produce the most addictive cigarettes they can. Up to 90% of smokers begin when they are below the age of 18, often due to peer pressure; once addicted, continuing to smoke is no longer an issue of freedom of choice, but of chemical compulsion. Like other addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine, tobacco should be banned since this is the only way to force people to quit.[3]

Most smokers say that they want to quit, so further restriction or a ban on tobacco would be doing them a favor:


While a government has a responsibility to protect its population, it also has a responsibility to defend their freedom of choice]] The law steps in to prevent citizens causing harm to others, whether deliberately or accidentally. However, it should not stop them taking risks themselves - for example, dangerous sports such as rock-climbing, parachuting or motor-racing are legal. It is also legal to indulge in other health-threatening activities such as eating lots of fatty foods, taking no exercise, and drinking too much alcohol. Banning smoking would be an unmerited intrusion into personal freedom.[4]

A comparison of tobacco to hard drugs is inaccurate: Tobacco is not debilitating in the same way that many illegal narcotics may be, nor is it comparable to the likes of heroin in terms of addictiveness, nor is it a mind-altering substance that leads to irrational, violent, or criminal behaviour. In this sense it is much less harmful than e.g. alcohol. The fact that so many smokers give up every year is testament to this.[5]

Addiction shouldn't be the major criteria for banning tobacco consumption, because other acceptable products are addictive: Coffee and physical exercise can both be considered addictive, but neither would be considered appropriate for being made illegal on this basis. For this reason, addictiveness should not be a main criteria in the legal considerations of this debate.[6]

Company responsibility - Should governments target companies as being responsible for harming citizens, and legislate accordingly?


Companies should be held responsible for creating products harmful to citizens: If a company produces food that is poisonous or a car that fails safety tests, the product is immediately taken off the market. Since all cigarettes and other tobacco products are poisonous and potentially lethal, they should all be taken off the market. In short, smoking should be banned.[7]


Cigarettes are very different from dangerous cars or poisonous foods: As the proposition points out, cigarettes are not dangerous because they are defective; rather they are inherently, potentially, harmful. Cigarette companies are, therefore, not failing their consumers by producing cigarettes; the consumers are getting what they asked for. The individual's right to choose a certain effect is not being infringed upon, as it is when a certain good fails. Therfore, people should still be allowed to choose to buy and smoke them.[8]

Argument: Many other products in society can be considered unhealthy; why focus on cigarettes?: High cholesterol or a high intake of fat can be extremely harmful, leading to heart disease, obesity, and other conditions; but manufacturers of these products are not punished. Consumers simply like the taste of fatty food. People should be allowed to smoke cigarettes and to eat fatty foods - both these things are sources of pleasure which, while having serious associated health risks, are only fatal after many decades, unlike a poisonous food or an unsafe car, which pose immediate and high risks.[9]

Harming others - Are smokers harming other people in all instances?


Smoking can force other people to 'passively smoking': In a smoke-filled environment, non-smokers are also exposed to the risks associated with tobacco. Research suggests that partners of smokers have an increased chance of developing lung cancer, even if they do not use tobacco products. Beyond the health risks, smoke can also be extremely unpleasant in public spaces, in the workplace or in bars and restaurants. Smokers are therefore causing discomfort - as well as actual harm - to others. On top of the harm cause to the smokers themselves, this is surely enough reason to ban smoking.[10]


The evidence for passive smoking is very slim, with few controlled studies having been carried out: At most, those who live with heavy smokers for a long period of time may have a very slightly increased risk of cancer.[11]

There are ways to ensure that "passive smoking" does not occur without banning smoking altogether: It is true that smoke-filled environments can be unpleasant for non-smokers, but there are reasonable and responsible ways around this - smoking rooms in offices and airports are an excellent example. Some bars and restaurants may choose to be non-smoking establishments, giving customers the choice to select their environment. Allowing people to make their own, adult decisions is surely always the best option. Restricting smoking in public places may sometimes be appropriate, banning it altogether would be excessive.[12]

Feasibility - Is the banning of tobacco use feasible?



It would be unreasonable to criminalize an activity indulged in by about one sixth of the world population: The lesson of prohibition of alcohol in America in the 1920s was that banning a recreational drug used by a large proportion of the population merely leads to crime and contraband. It would also mean that governments would lose tax revenue from tobacco sales - a major source of income for national health and other resources in many countries.[13]

Tobacco ads - Should smoking advertisements be limited or banned?


There should be a ban on all tobacco advertising due to the knowledge of its ill effects:[14]


Ads do not cause smoking: There is no good evidence that either of these measures would have an impact on the rate of tobacco consumption. Cigarette companies claim that advertisements are merely to persuade people to switch brands, not to start smoking in the first place. People start smoking through peer pressure - indeed the more of a 'forbidden fruit' cigarettes become, the more attractive they will be to adolescents. As for health warnings, if the knowledge that cigarettes have serious health risks deterred people from smoking then no-one would smoke any more. People start and continue to smoke in the full knowledge of the health risks.[15]


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