The Independent Variable - Matt Haugland

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Smoking Law

Today I watched President Obama sign a law giving the FDA new authority in regulating cigarettes. As much as I generally dislike increasing regulations, I think this is a step in the right direction. However, I think there is a much better solution that would do a lot more with fewer new regulations: ban cigarettes completely.

I believe a complete ban on smoking would reduce poverty, increase productivity, improve public health, reduce health care costs, and reduce litter. I think it will happen some day. A Zogby poll found that 45% of Americans would support making cigarettes illegal in 5-10 years, including 57% of 18-29 year olds.

But it won't happen any time soon. For now, I can just hope more places will follow the lead of Calabasas, CA in banning smoking in ALL public places, indoors and out. Unfortunately, I live in one of the only places where that can't happen -- Oklahoma is the ONLY state that prohibits local governments from regulating smoking more strictly than the state. And there's not much at the state level. While in most states smoking is already banned in restaurants, Oklahoma will allow it until at least 2013.


At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Jason said...

I agree smoking should go away. I dislike smoking as much as you do, though I see some problems with this. I think we should have better education and prevention on this for children and teenagers. The biggest prevention is the parents, and many are uneducated or don’t talk to their children about it. The majority of people that start smoking are in their teens. They usually do it to fit in, or their parents do it. Like any other addiction there are a verity of reasons a person continues to smoke and cannot quit. The chemical part is strong, however many people use it as a stress reliever. People usually have an emotional reason for smoking. There are many things out there to help get over the chemical part, but none for the emotional reason. The government also gets lots of money on the taxes of it.
Another problem I see with making smoking illegal is it would put it in the black market, in the hands of drug dealers. This could cause many more problems with the war on drugs. I would love to hear your thoughts on that. Smokers would also feel this was infringing on their rights, though to look at it a different way, them smoking infringes on our rights as non smokers. I don’t like to go out a lot of times because of cigarette smoke. I always have to strip down and take a shower when I get home. I have asthma so my lungs tend to hurt. Many years ago it was the social norm to smoke. Can we fault those who followed the social norm? It is very difficult to stop smoking. Before it is made to be illegal, we should get better help for those who are addicted to it. Maybe with medical advancements we can make a head way on addictions altogether. In psychology there is much debate about faulting those who have additions. One side says they should be responsible for their actions because they were the ones that started in the first place. The other side states people that have addictions be it cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, or whatever else, are not responsible because it is a mental illness. They argue they are no more responsible than those who are bipolar, schizophrenic, or any other mental disorder is for their problems. What do you think is the best approach for those who already smoke and the potential for it going on the black market?

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Jason, great points here. A lot of the things you mentioned are why I don't think a complete ban will happen any time soon. I see what you're saying about the older generating, and I think that's the key to why I think there's a good chance it'll eventually go away.

Smoking does seem to be an older generation thing, hence the much greater support for smoking bans among younger people. I don't think the same could be said for drinking and drugs. I think smoking will continue to decline with each generation, eventually to the point where there will be widespread support for more comprehensive bans, and eventually it might go away. Not because laws will change people, but because eventually there won't be many people left who want to smoke.

That leads to what I think about the black market. There already is a black market in areas with high taxes in cigarettes. But it's demand that drives the black market. Right now there's plenty of it, so outlawing it now would create a huge black market. But by the time smoking is finally outlawed (I'd guess maybe 50 years from now), I don't think there will be enough demand for a significant black market.

As for people who already smoke, I think it's just like any other addiction (alcohol for example). I believe people are born with a genetic predisposition for addiction, but they still have some responsibility. People who have the genetics for it should be extra careful about not starting.

I don't have as much of a problem with older people doing it, who started back when less was known about the dangers of it. The people I have a problem with are the ones who can't afford to feed their kids because they spend ridiculous amounts of money on cigarettes. It's not wrong because smoking is evil, it's wrong because those people put their addiction ahead of the needs of their family.

At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Jason said...

I absolutly agree with what you are saying. I think we will eventully evolve enough to not smoke. I hope it is sooner than 50yrs but not likely.It would be nice to have it banned in all public places though. The city of Wichita Falls was trying to pass it but got voted down.

At 11:09 PM, Anonymous Dan Dawson said...

Matt, as much as I support individual liberties, I have to agree that smoking is one of those that has to go sooner rather than later. I also agree that it probably will be banned in most circumstances eventually.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Marcian said...

I seem to recall a little period in history called The Prohibition. But since we don't seem to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.


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