Nobody wants to have their health put at risk, especially involuntarily. One may ask, why would anybody voluntarily put their health at risk? Whether they are driving irresponsibly, drinking excessively, of –-the topic of this paper—smoking tobacco products, many people choose to take risks daily and face the consequences accordingly. The common factor between these three examples is the fact that they can all put others at risk too. Specifically, many individuals do not realize the negative effects smoking tobacco products can have on not only them, but also those around them.
In fact, “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure,” (Smoking & Tobacco Use). Smoking tobacco products in public should be prohibited to decrease the effects of secondhand smoke, to avoid setting a negative social norm for children, to help the environment, and to potentially reduce the population effected by tobacco.
Tobacco is believed to have been around as early as 6000 B. C., growing in both North and South America (Randall). Around 1 B.C. Native Americans began using tobacco in a variety of ways, causing it to eventually become one of America’s most important cash crops (Young). During this time, tobacco was used as a “cure-all” for dressing wounds, pain relief, medicinal practices, and was even used in religious practices. It was these supposed healing characteristics that sparked tobacco’s growth in Europe, shortly after Christopher Columbus was given dried tobacco leaves as a gift from the Native Americans (Randall). After this encounter, sailors brought the plant back to Europe and it was not long before it was being grown all throughout (Young). In fact, by the end of the sixteenth century, the use of tobacco had been introduced been introduced to nearly every European country (Borio).
Despite the positive reputation, tobacco was not welcomed by all Europeans right away. The idea of inhaling smoke seemed strange, even dangerous and many objected to being exposed to the secondhand smoke of those who took part. Despite individual skepticism, it seemed as though tobacco was a “wonder drug,” with alleged abilities such as calming soldiers before battle, suppressing hunger, and treating everything from cancer to the bubonic plague. Even though these seem like remarkable claims, this was not the primary focus of tobacco products in Europe. The narcotic effects of tobacco were what many tended to concentrate on, it was a way to clear your mind and produce happy thoughts (Young).
The demand for tobacco in the 1600’s was so great that many individuals used it as money. Although this plant was gaining extreme popularity, some individuals began to recognize the health concerns. For example, Sir Francis Bacon, best known for formulating the Scientific Method, referred to a tobacco use as a “bad habit” that was difficult to quit (Randall, Simpson). Health threats were the least of Pierre Lorillard’s concerns; however, as he establishes one of the oldest tobacco companies in the United States in 1760: P. Lorillard (Randall). Tobacco products in America really began to gain popularity during the Revolutionary War, as it was used as an endorsement for loans from France (Borio).
In 1847, Philip Morris, an international tobacco company, was founded in the United Kingdom (Borio, Who We Are). This company was the first to start selling hand-rolled Turkish cigarettes before the method was duplicated in 1849 by American company, J.E. Liggett and Brother. This was very relevant in American tobacco history because at the time chewing tobacco was the most common form of use, however cigarettes slowly began stealing the spotlight. Once cigarette-making machines were invented in 1881, the demand for cigarettes skyrocketed. James Bonsack, the creator of the machine, went into business as James Buck Duke and established the American Tobacco Company, which is still around today as a part of British American Tobacco (Borio).
As tobacco continued to grow, so too did technology, causing marketing to become a key part in sales. Advertisements of tobacco first showed up in America in 1789, when a New York paper held an advertisement for the Lorillard brothers’ snuff and tobacco products. This became the norm for tobacco products over the next seventy years (Pritcher). By the 1920s, many tobacco companies decided to start marketing massively to women. Brands like “Mild as May” were created to try and show women that it was not a disgusting habit, but feminine and appealing. This approach worked wonders as “the number of female smokers in the United States tripled by 1935” (Borio). As marketing became more advanced with technology, it was clear that tobacco was not going anywhere anytime soon, putting users and those around them at risk.
Since the dramatic increase of tobacco advertising, the industry is still thriving today, despite the plethora of health risks. Unfortunately, more American deaths are caused by cigarettes than those caused by illegal drugs, alcohol, HIV, guns, and car accidents collectively. About 30 percent of the deaths due to cancer in the United States are a result of smoking; this includes 80 percent of all lung cancer deaths. Although lung cancer is an immensely common concern, smoking tobacco increases the risk factor for cancers of the mouth, kidney, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), pancreas, etc. (The American Cancer Society).
Smoking can lead to disease and harm nearly every organ in the body. For example, tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, COPD, and weakening of the immune system are incredibly common examples of the possible effects of smoking tobacco (Smoking & Tobacco Use). Tobacco can also damage your cardiovascular system, increasing an individual’s risk for heart disease and stroke. Tobacco smoke has a multitude of chemicals that irritate the body’s airways and lungs, causing the body to produce mucus, resulting in a “smoker’s-cough” (The American Cancer Society). The multitudes of health risks one takes when picking up a cigarette are endless, yet society continues to promote smoking.
Although the health of the smoker is being put at risk, this is not the only issue with smoking tobacco products in public. Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke coming from the end of a cigarette or cigar and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. It is also often forced upon those that do not wish to inhale tobacco smoke and rightfully so. “Secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 deaths from lung cancer and tens of thousands of deaths from heart disease to nonsmoking adults in the United States each year,” (The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke). If an individual is not the one smoking the cigarette, it is unfair for them to be subject to the same brutal health effects.
Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous to children, babies, and pregnant women. Pregnant mothers who inhale second hand smoke have a greater chance of giving birth to an underweight baby (Secondhand Smoke). Other possibilities include a miscarriage, premature birth, sudden infant death syndrome, and learning disabilities (The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke). The inhalation by babies and children can result in frequent lung infections and asthma. If the child is lucky this will be the least of the issues, however exposure can result in developed bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, and much worse (Secondhand Smoke). These are all very serious outcomes for someone who is unable to make the decision on their own.
Surprisingly, it was not until the 1800s that age restriction laws began to be put in place surrounding the purchase of tobacco products (Apollonio). This was an essential step, especially because of the many consequences using tobacco at a young age can affect children’s’ health. Cigarette smoking can cause serious health problems among anyone; however, children and adolescence are much more vulnerable to these issues and more. These consequences include potential “increase in the number and severity of respiratory illnesses, decreased physical fitness and potential effects on lung growth and function,” (American Lung Association).
Aside from health issues, during these years the brain is not fully developed, causing adolescence to be more vulnerable to addiction than individuals that start at a later age. “The brain region that is very critical in planning your actions and in habit formation is directly tapped by reward in adolescents, which means the reward could have a stronger influence in their decision-making, in what they do next, as well as forming habits in adolescents,” (Welsh). Among adults who reportedly smoke or have smoked daily, 87 percent admit to having tried their first cigarette before they were 18 years old and 95 percent admit to trying before the age of 21 (American Lung Association).
“Each day in the United States, about 2,000 youth under 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and each day in the United States, more than 300 youth under 18 years of age become daily cigarette smokers,” (Smoking & Tobacco Use). It has been predicted that if smoking among adolescence continues at the United States’ current rate, 5.6 million of the Americans currently less than 18 years old will die prematurely as a result of smoking (Smoking & Tobacco Use).
So, if smoking tobacco products is unmistakably bad for the body, why do people continue to do it? There are a number of factors that go into it. For example, peer influence, adult smoking, stress relief, advertising, and media all are primary reasons someone of youth may begin to smoke (Why Teens and Kids Start Smoking). Eliminating public smoking could reduce most of these factors, making them less influential. For instance, peer influence, adult smoking, and advertising all go together. By using tobacco products in public, in view of adolescence, one is not only influencing the behavior, but advertising that it is normal and okay. Children look up to adults, so if a child sees a parent smoking, they are going to be more likely to consider that as an acceptable way to cope with stress. Now, they are being put at risk of nicotine dependency, which could carry into adulthood and even life (Smoking & Tobacco Use). Studies show that lower self-esteem and self-worth result in a significantly higher change of dependency (Bricker). This is why it is imperative to set a good example at a young age because if tobacco is avoided during teenage years, until the body and brain are fully developed, they are less likely to become highly dependent on tobacco products (Smoking & Tobacco Use).
Exposure to smoking negatively affects kids in numerous ways. Public smoking encourages a cycle, and hopefully without it we could break that cycle. Youth have a greater chance of using tobacco products if they view it as a normal practice in society (Smoking & Tobacco Use). Children adapt to their environments, so if they often see adults or teenagers smoking in public they are going to view it as something that is acceptable (Why Teens and Kids Start Smoking). Think about how many people you see smoking every single day that look comfortable with their actions. This is because it has become such a social norm in the United States. Not only can this psychologically affect children, it can affect teenagers as well. For example, one may educate their child that smoking is bad, but when tobacco is constantly promoted around them, they may decide to use a cigarette, and then become addicted. The cycle continues here, since nicotine addiction is more likely to affect those at a younger age (Mayo Clinic Staff). This being the case, we must strive to set a much better public example.
Evidently, the fewer kids who are exposed to this habit as a norm, the fewer people will face addiction and ultimately death due to smoking (Mayo Clinic Staff). This prohibition would make having a nicotine addiction extremely inconvenient. This could possibly discourage kids from the idea of trying cigarettes and make them less accessible. For instance, fewer people may have cigarettes on them for underage kids to borrow or purchase. Even those who are currently adults addicted to cigarettes may be encouraged to quit if public smoking is prohibited. There are many ways to help treat addiction it just has to be taken day-by-day (Addiction).
Although smoking can affect individual people directly, it affects all people indirectly. Tobacco products, especially smoking, put environmental health at risk. The smoke from cigarettes releases toxins into the atmosphere, polluting the air (Rinkesh). “The cigarette butts also litter the environment and the toxic chemicals in the remains seep into soils and waterways therefore causing soil and water pollution respectively,” (Rinkesh). This affects the animals that come into contact with the toxins, some of which we end up consuming (Truth Initiative). The ban could reduce the environmental risks, keeping us and our wildlife safe in the process (Myers).
A main counter argument for the ban of public smoking is that it takes away individual freedom. I understand why someone would agree with this statement; however, by choosing to smoke in public you are taking the choice away from those around you. Nicotine addiction is not an easy thing to overcome, so the elimination of public smoking may sound drastic. A possible solution to this disagreement could be designated buildings with ventilation systems put into place. This could resolve the issue of those who believe the ban would affect businesses (Ayres).
One may argue that many children are mainly exposed to secondhand smoke in their own homes, so they are not affected by public use of tobacco products. It is true that many children are subject to secondhand smoke at home, however that does not account for all children, nor does it account for pregnant women (The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke). Additionally, one of the end goals for the ban of public smoking is the decline of smoking all together. This relates to children because, similar to what I said before, tobacco abuse begins predominantly during adolescence (Smoking & Tobacco Use).
Overall, smoking tobacco products in public should be banned to decrease the risks of secondhand smoke, to avoid setting a negative social norm for children, to help the environment, and to potentially reduce the population effected by tobacco. We should be working as a society to put an end to smoking in public. The negative effects of smoking tobacco products in public greatly outweigh the positive. The ban would help to better our society, protect our children, and the environment.