Tobacco is a well-known public health risk. It is one of the most publicized causes of preventable disease. It leads to heart disease, strokes, hypertension and cancer. It is virtually impossible to not be aware of the health risks associated with tobacco use. However, despite these risks, it should not be banned. Tobacco should be strictly regulated and individuals should not be allowed to purchase tobacco products until the age of twenty-one. While it is a terrible product with no possible benefits, Americans should still be able to choose what they do to their bodies. If tobacco is banned, it will simply lead to illegal tobacco. Furthermore, the government may then choose to ban sodas, fast food and other health risks. It should then also demand that its citizens exercise. When the government begins on this path, there is no end in sight for what it might require of or refuse its citizens. This is not freedom.
Tobacco is a health menace. Everyone knows this. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014), “Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.” However, Americans have a right to make their own decisions with regards to their health. This includes the right to make a bad decision. Americans make bad decisions with regards to their health every day. They eat too much. They eat the wrong things. They fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables. They do not exercise. They do not see their physicians for regular checkups. These are choices that Americans make. America is about choice. Some Americans choose the healthy option. They do eat healthy and choose to exercise. Just as it would be wrong to take away the correct choices from Americans, it would also be wrong to take away the wrong ones. To do either would negate the ability of Americans to be responsible for their own lives. The United States has a Constitution that guarantees Americans certain rights. It also ensures that the government will not obtain too much power over her citizens. Allowing the United States government to make choices for her citizens is too much power. Yes, these rights may put a person in danger. However, driving or riding in a car is also a risk. A person has the right to decide what risks are appropriate for the person’s life. The important thing is for an American or any individual to be informed in his or her choices. A person must know the risks and benefits of a choice (Silverglate, 2011).
Allowing adults to purchase tobacco products does provide an important source of tax revenue for the country. Since only adults can legally purchase tobacco products, these individuals are voluntarily choosing to pay an additional tax to the government. This is an important part of the discussion. Tobacco taxes do serve as an incentive for individuals to quit smoking. They also provide revenue for both the state governments and the federal government. A 2008 article in The New York Times indicated that the federal government collected $7 billion annually from tobacco taxes. This is a voluntary tax; individuals choose to pay it. Choice, as discussed, is good. If the government does not receive these funds from voluntary taxes, they will find another way to tax individuals (Saul, 2008).
It is easy to understand why many argue that tobacco should be banned. Because of the health risks associated with tobacco use, health care costs in the United States surge annually. It is estimated that smoking-related costs amount to approximately $37.5 billion annually for Medicare. Healthcare costs related to second-hand smoke amount to approximately $6 billion annually in America (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 2014). By all means, these costs are staggering. However, it is difficult to determine accurately the costs associated with tobacco smoke for a number of reasons. Cigarette smokers often engage in a wide-variety of unhealthy behaviors.
Tobacco use is associated with a number of other unhealthy conditions. When conditions are associated with each other, medicine and health refer to them as co-morbidities. This indicates that it is often difficult to determine the true morbidity in disease patterns. Individuals who practice one unhealthy habit often engage in multiple unhealthy patterns. While some individuals may have one unhealthy habit, such as smoking or drinking excessively, while still practicing many healthy habits, this is the exception rather than the rule. Individuals who smoke often do not eat a healthy diet. They often do not exercise. Cigarette smoking makes it more difficult for individuals to exercise due to the additional stress that smoking places on the heart and lungs. All of these habits, both by themselves and in conjunction with each other, often lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes. For this reason, it is difficult to determine the true cost of cigarette smoking. An individual may not smoke, but because of poor diet and exercise habits, may still develop cardiovascular disease or Type II diabetes. As a result, Americans will still accrue the health care costs associated with these diseases. At least with smoking, the individual is forced to pay a tax that helps cover the federal and state costs associated with these diseases. Furthermore, some argue that smokers do not have “premature” deaths. The average life-expectancy in the United States is 72. Nearly sixty percent of smokers die over the age of seventy (Cato Institute, n.d.).
It is easy to understand why many want tobacco banned. It is an unhealthy product by all means. However, Americans still have the right to choose their behaviors. This includes the unhealthy ones. If Americans lose their right to choose, they lose what America represents. Furthermore, smokers do not die as prematurely as many would suggest. The taxes associated with smoking also provide a needed source of revenue for both the state and the federal governments.
- Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (2014, Feb 20). Toll of tobacco use in the United States of America. Retrieved May 10, 2014, from: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0072.pdf
- Cato Institute. (n.d.). Blowing smoke about tobacco-related deaths. Retrieved May 10, 2014, from: http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/blowing-smoke-about-tobaccorelated-deaths
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, February 6). Effects of cigarette smoking. Retrieved May 10, 2014, from; http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smokin g/
- Saul, S. (2008, Aug 28). Government gets hooked on tobacco tax billions. The New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2014, from: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/weekinreview/31saul.html?_r=0
- Silverglate, H. (2011, November 23). Sometimes the tobacco companies are right. Forbes. Retrieved May 10, 2014, from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/harveysilverglate/2011/11/23/sometimes-the-tobacco-companies-are-right/