The Possibility Of A Tobacco-Free America: Coming Soon

Since the 1950’s, it has been a well-accepted fact that tobacco use is harmful to one's health. And in 1964, it was officially linked to lung cancer. Despite the health detriments, people remain addicted and continue to consume tobacco products. But, there are also benefits that arise from the tobacco industry such as the creation of jobs and tax revenue. Conventionally, there are two sides to this argument-either tobacco sales should be banned or they shouldn’t. However, there are positives that can be extracted from both viewpoints in order to perceive the argument at hand from a third perspective. The most notable reason to ban tobacco is its numerous negative effects on health. Ten different types of cancers have been proven to be connected to tobacco use. Causing almost five hundred thousand deaths per year, smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The CDC stated, “More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States.” Despite how obvious the risks are, people still continue to smoke. This fact, in a sense, can be related to what Teppo Felin said in his article “The Fallacy of Obviousness”. He stated, “There’s a fallacy of obviousness because all kinds of things are readily evident in the clip. But missing any one of these things isn’t a basis for saying that humans are blind. The experiment is set up in such a way that people miss the gorilla because they are distracted by counting basketball passes”. The subjects can’t help but to be blind to the gorilla-70% of subjects never see the gorilla. But in the case of cigarette smoking, being blind to its risks is virtually impossible in today’s day and age. People continue to smoke because they either don’t care or are addicted.

The American economy benefits greatly from the tobacco industry. One compelling reason to not ban tobacco sales is because of jobs. Close to 2 million jobs are generated by it: including about 200,000 people working directly in the industry in jobs such as farms and factories. The industry also rakes in billions of tax dollars every year for the government-tobacco is still in every way a cash crop. As of 2016, the CDC released information showing that 38 million Americans still smoke. If tobacco was banned, it would be a large imposition to America’s population. Nafessa Jaigirdar said, “To ban cigarettes now may lead to increased crime. For regular smokers, not smoking for even a couple of hours can give way to uneasiness and withdrawal symptoms. After only a couple of hours of enacting this law will it prove chaotic.”

People will find a way to smoke, legal or not. The government doesn’t want what happened during prohibition to repeat itself, so as long as people are going to smoke, they might as well do it legally. Tobacco will not be banned anytime soon, however consumption has been decreasing in recent years and eventually it might become a thing of the past. Although, the tobacco industry creates upwards of 10 billion dollars in tax revenue every year, it still doesn’t cover the government Medicare costs to cover tobacco related illnesses. This is effectively considered a net economic loss. According to Robert West, an effective tobacco control strategy needs to be implemented in order for tobacco consumption to completely stop. This involves “influencing the behavior of current or potential tobacco users, limiting how far the tobacco industry can seek to influence their behavior and reducing the harm from use of tobacco products”.

The key aim is to discourage young individuals from starting. This initiative will hope to decrease the number of smokers drastically year after year-the strategy is working so far. If the tobacco industry was banned right now, it would just move underground. Criminals will flood the market looking to grab the profits. Drug cartels will wage wars against each other and violence will skyrocket. Prohibition in the 1920s was a complete failure. Alcohol consumption fell sharply during the prohibition’s infancy, but quickly rose to over 60% of its pre-prohibition levels in the coming years. We can only assume a similar course of events will occur if tobacco use was outlawed. This, of course, would only accomplish the exact opposite of what the ban was meant to do-decrease the use of tobacco products. A ban on tobacco is not high up on America’s to-do list. But, given enough time, the population of smokers will become small enough that issuing a nationwide ban will be possible in the future. The former economic activity from Big Tobacco will be redistributed to other markets as consumers purchase alternative goods. This auxiliary spending will create employment and tax revenues associated with the production and sale of purchased goods. The tobacco-free future of America is assured.

13 January 2020
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