demonizing cigarette smoking  

redmustang91 57M  
8822 posts
3/17/2006 8:40 am

Last Read:
3/18/2006 9:09 am

demonizing cigarette smoking

California banned indoor cigarette smoking a few years ago and other states are doing so, including Rhode Island recently. But other sources of air pollution cause lung cancer and heart disease too.
We need to work on reducing those sources as well, as this writer points out:

On March 1, 2005, Rhode Island became the seventh state to implement a statewide smoking ban, prohibiting smoking in virtually every work place in the state. The ban is enforced under the 2005 Public Health and Workplace Safety Act and applies to all businesses except the state's two gambling parlors, Newport Grand and Lincoln Park. Businesses must be entirely non-smoking, and the Department of Health recommends that patrons who wish to smoke should stand 50 feet away from the doorframe. The fine for smoking violations is $250 for the first offence, $500 for the second and $1000 for each subsequent violation. The business owner is solely accountable for paying the fine. The smoking ban raises serious questions about how we prioritize public health decisions and who is responsible for environmental pollution.

It is quite obvious, of course, that smoking and second hand smoke are linked to heightened cancer and asthma risks. An amazingly successful public health campaign has lead to a heightened awareness of the risks associated with smoking. Beginning with Mississippi in 1994, states starting filing individual lawsuits with the top four tobacco companies on the premise that they should be able to recover the costs of treating illness caused by tobacco use. This led to the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, in which R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard and Philip Morris agreed to pay the states $206 billion. The settlement was a critical turning point for the anti-tobacco movement. However, while smoking has become "demonized," officials and academics have failed to discuss the public health effects of car exhaust and industrial pollution. Other environmental externalities, such as exhaust pollution, pose an enormous health threat, one which seems more urgent and widespread than second-hand smoke.

Car exhaust contains carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, suspended particles less than 10 microns in size, benzene, formaldehyde and polycyclic hydrocarbons, among other compounds. The laundry list of toxic airborne compounds released by car use and by industrial practices is nothing short of terrifying. If these airborne pollutants are so noxious as well, then why has the government pursued the banning of cigarette smoke so persistently at the expense of regulating greater health risks? There are three simple answers. The first is that enforcement of smoking bans is much easier to implement than trying to cap industry emissions. Secondly, smoking is propagated by one overarching industry - tobacco companies - while industrial and traffic pollution is caused by a whole array of industries. Finally, it is much easier to prove the relationship between cancer and smoking in an epidemiological study than it is to prove the relationship between cancer and pollution, which comes from an unquantifiable number of sources.

The difference between banning cigarette smoking and decreasing emissions is that it's easier to blame a huge, visible industry than it is to blame ourselves. In reality, each and every person contributes to local air pollution through driving and day-to-day energy consumption. We affect every other citizen with our consumption, but the environment is an externality in our economic system for which no one group or individual is solely responsible. Many towns have a flat fee for household trash removal, but there is obviously no fee on the individual for "environmental impact."

The fact that citizens are often left without a choice but to contribute to local air pollution is the greatest obstacle standing in the way of reducing noxious emissions. People must drive in order to get to their workplaces, and public transportation does not provide a viable alternative for the majority of suburban populations. Citizens in most towns are also not held accountable for the amount of trash they generate. By charging per-pound for trash removal, legislation could have a profound impact on the amount of waste generated. Analogous policies for fuel consumption might help reduce air pollution.

The tobacco industry and smokers do not deserve to be demonized for threatening our public health. In 1995, the Rhode Island Department of Health survey found that 62 percent of companies in the state were smoke-free, while another 23 percent had "highly-restrictive" smoking policies. In comparison to the deplorable number of superfunds in the state, smoking in public spaces seems like a lesser threat. Discussion must be extended to the carcinogenic and asthmatic effects of local air pollution. Just as states have sued big tobacco in order to account for money spent on treating sickness caused by smoking, states must further pursue lawsuits against other industries such as the automobile and transportation industries that also cause detriment to public health.

libgemOH 56M/52F

3/17/2006 10:11 am

Welcome to the world of the second class citizen! Next thing you know, they'll be fining you for farting in public.....but only if you are a smoker! -B

redmustang91 57M  
8662 posts
3/17/2006 2:03 pm

I am not a smoker but I think the police have better things to do...

MissAnnThrope 56F
11488 posts
3/18/2006 2:58 am

I am a smoker and states can't seem to make up their minds. They're going after reservations that sell cigarettes online, screaming about the taxes due. But on the other hand, they want a complete smoker-free society. What are they going to tax if they achieve that?

Nothing pisses me off more than when I'm standing on the street outside a builing in Manhattan, having a cigarette. The people who go by and fake cough at me, while the air is thick with exhaust fumes. Jogging once around Central Park Lake, you breath in more carbon monoxide than in two packs of cigarettes. But jogging is considered healthier.

There are people who have never smoked or worked in a mine getting lung cancer. But even if they've never lived with a smoker, second hand smoke is being blamed. And if they can't blame second hand smoke, people get confused.

Once smoking is completely demonized and even banned in your home or car, what will be next? There will be another cause, something else to be banned or regulated, to save the public from themselves. To chip away more at personal rights. Trust me on this.

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