Debate:Should government restrictions on smoking be tightened or rolled back?

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If one assumes that the science which has determined smoking to be hazardous and even deadly over time is valid, then some degree of government regulation is warranted. For example, no reasonable person would dispute that smoking by minors should be prohibited.

The degree to which smoking by adults should be regulated is more debatable, however. Some argue that there's no justification for the legal sale of any product that causes cancer and related diseases like emphysema with not offsetting benefit. Others say that this is a matter of individual choice, and that as long as adults are given the facts, they should have the right to make that choice for themselves.

Yes, They Should Be Tightened

Frankly, there's no legitimate reason smoking should be legal, because the science that shows it to be deadly has even been accepted by the tobacco companies, which focus on smokers-rights instead. The government does not allow the sale of any consumable product that is comparably harmful, and only permits smoking because of the potential outcry of voters addicted to it, and because of the tax revenue that would be lost.

These are cowardly reasons to permit its continued sale. All of society pays a cost for smoking, specifically in assuming the medical expenses for the underinsured, and lost productivity due to illness and death. As for parallels, a light consumption of alcohol (like a few glasses of red wine per week) has been shown to have overall health benefits, while comparable addictive substances that sharpen the senses and suppress appetite, like cocaine, have been banned.

The arguments for lost taxes fall short because that money would be spent elsewhere. Figures from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids assert that smokers cost the economy $97.6 billion a year in lost productivity because of premature death. Per the same source, an additional $96.7 billion is spent on public and private health care combined, and each American household spends $630 a year in federal and state taxes due to smoking, whether they smoke or not.

The cost of a pack of cigarettes averages $4.49, including taxes. Using this number, a pack-a-day smoker burns through about $31.43 per week, or $1,635 per year. That's higher than the average incentive check the government sent out this spring, and would be an ongoing stimulus to the economy if spent. Alternatively, a 40-year-old who quits smoking and puts the savings into a 401(k) earning 9% a year would have nearly $250,000 by age 70, relieving some of the burden on Social Security, Medicare, etc.

To recap, there is no overall benefit to society from allowing smoking, but every American suffers from the negative impacts in an economic sense. When the voluntary actions of some citizens cause harm to all, there is no rational justification to roll back regulation of the action. Regulation should be tightened with a national goal of ending tobacco sales in this country in the next couple of decades. --DinsdaleP 13:47, 22 July 2008 (EDT)

Good points. I basically agree. Also, to respond to the inevitable point that this would infringe on the smokers' freedoms, I would point out that government restrict our freedoms all the time to prevent situations where we might otherwise put other people at risk. Even if you own a gun, you're not permitted to go around shooting it just anywhere. Or you may have a license to drive a car, but you atill have to observe speed limits and other traffic regulations. And so forth. Smoking really seems no different - you're welcome to smoke in your own home or in the open air, but not in circumstances where you put other people's health at risk through second-hand smoke. --AKjeldsen 14:24, 22 July 2008 (EDT)
Thanks. I just made a similar point on the Talk page for this debate. Even if you don't believe that second-hand smoke is a health hazard, it's still an annoyance to many non-smokers. We accept regulations on playing annoyingly loud music in open, public spaces because the rights of others not to be disturbed take precedence over those of the individual who's cranking the tunes. That's the same premise for restricting smoking in public - smoking affects an area, not an individual, so the rights of others to enjoy a smoke-free public space outweigh those of the individual smoker. -DinsdaleP 15:26, 22 July 2008 (EDT)

No, They Should Be Rolled Back

Well if speaking of the money the 40 year old could put into the 401k plan thing, if the 40 year old just died then there would be just as much saving for the social security stuff. --Shateldo 22:45, 13 October 2009 (EDT)