Gov’t needs to get involved to crack down on smoking

A hearing in London on Monday granted tobacco firms the ability to challenge the recent EU ruling mandating that 65 percent of the external packaging of cigarettes must contain health warnings, both in written text and images. This initial ruling was granted to help educate the public about the risks associated with smoking, but warnings are no longer enough. Cigarette boxes have been plastered with clear, albeit hesitant, admonitions since 1965, and though the global prevalence of smoking — the percentage of the population that smokes — has decreased, the number of smokers is still rising due to population growth and the fact that these younger generations are only being discouraged by a metaphorical “Do Not Touch” sign.

In the United States alone, 42.1 million adults smoke cigarettes, making smoking the leading cause of preventable death in the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is known to cause cancer and lung disease, and for every person who dies of a smoking-related disease, 30 more suffer from a serious illness. Though the specific numbers may be new, this information is hardly surprising. We, the public, know smoking has a detrimental effect on many Americans. So why are there still millions who continue to smoke?

I’m not advocating for a world in which the government bars any and every unhealthy practice; each of us has the right to engage in lawful activities, provided they don’t harm others. But choosing to smoke has an impact on those around us. Secondhand smoke has been shown to cause health problems, and it’s undeniable that death caused by smoking affects not only the deceased but their loved ones as well. Further, treatment for complications caused by smoking are conducted at the cost of not one person but entire families. In the same way that American regulatory agencies in the 1960s introduced warnings on cigarette packaging to educate the next generation, we need to introduce more rigorous practices to induce action and change.

Cigarette taxes exist on both federal and state levels and have been proven to reduce the number of smokers because cigarettes become more expensive and thus less desirable. These taxes can be raised to make it more difficult for consumers to buy cigarettes. However, refraining from smoking shouldn’t rely upon price, but on principle. Health risks aren’t the only problem; the addictive quality of cigarettes prevents many smokers from quitting, even when supplied with this information. The public should be aware of the fact that though they may want to quit smoking, the addictive effect it’s already had on them may make doing so impossible. These awareness programs should be implemented in schools and workplaces and should offer information, as well as establishing smoke-free areas within buildings.

The fact that taxes and policies must be created to keep citizens from harming themselves is a sad reality in our world. This last week, Berkeley, Calif. became the first city in the nation to pass a sales tax on soda in an effort to curb obesity. We can’t change the fact that the American public refuses to make the necessary changes to ensure a higher standard of life. Policies must reflect our efforts to improve well-being until citizens learn to make the effort themselves.

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