It was a sunny afternoon. July 17, a busy Friday in the Puyallup area with bumper-to-bumper traffic on SR 512 in each direction. Smoke billowed into the air at the Public Storage facility on Canyon Road as a massive fire engulfed the complex, destroying 120 units full of family possessions and closing all major roads in the area as firefighters battled the flames.
Traffic was at a standstill. The back-roads were filling up fast and the normally quick drive from the South Hill Mall to the Franz bread outlet in Parkland turned into a nightmare.
All of this was caused by a cigarette according to a July 21 KOMO News article.
According to the article, an Arizona family lost everything in the fire when their storage unit burned down. Nothing was salvaged and their insurance company wouldn’t cover everything.
“We thought there would be something left, not see the whole entire thing burn to the ground,” Joseph Name said to KOMO News.
This is what can happen when people drive down the freeway at 60 mph and throw a cigarette out the window, a sight that has become common. In the hot summer weather it only takes seconds for that smoking cigarette bud to ignite a nearly unstoppable wall of flames.
In light of the recent wildfires and brush-fires across Washington, cigarettes should be banned.
Cigarettes are filthy. Getting a wiff of that tobacco smell in public places is nauseating, but that’s not all secondhand smoke can do to someone. According to the Center of Disease Control, “since 1964, approximately 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.”
That’s because tobacco smoke can contain up to 70 different cancer-causing chemicals that are released into the air. Smoking and secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, Lung Cancer and even a stroke.
Not only are cigarettes dangerous to public health and property, but according to The Motley Fool, the average price of a pack of cigarettes in Washington is $9.30. That’s an average of $3,395 each year. Spending $3,395 a year for Lung Cancer doesn’t seem reasonable.
People can decide whether or not they want to smoke, but many others suffer because of these seemingly simple choices. Secondhand smoke can be more dangerous than direct smoking, especially when children are around or just walking by.
According to the CDC’s Surgeon General’s report for 2014, “More than 400,000 babies born in the United States every year are exposed to chemicals in cigarette smoke before birth because their mothers smoke.”
The report also said that “100,000 babies have died from smoking-related prematurity, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, or other conditions caused by exposure to chemicals in secondhand smoke during infancy or before they were born.”
This issue isn’t about a person’s right to choose, it’s about the health and safety of children. It’s about the prevention of Lung Cancer in nonsmokers. It’s about an end to needless fires and destruction of property.
Cigarettes deserve to be banned for the destruction they’ve caused.
Every November, The American Cancer Society hosts The Great American Smokeout, which is an event designed to help tobacco users stop smoking.
In discussing this event with co-workers, the topic of banning cigarettes arose. Even though I’m not a smoker, I don’t believe that cigarettes should be banned.
It’s a proven fact that cigarettes cause a number of health problems including lung cancer, emphysema and death; but banning cigarettes is not the way to stop smokers from smoking.
Banning cigarettes takes away freedom of choice. Yes, smoking only causes harm, but it’s up to the individual what they want to put in their body.
Looking at the bigger picture, smoking is just one of the thousands of bad things out there that society chooses to do. If the government banned all the things that were bad for us, we wouldn’t have a lot left. Fast food for example would have to be banned. Obesity causes high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. Yet, junk food is perfectly legal. Alcohol is also legal, despite alcohol related deaths totaling around 2.5 million people worldwide every year according to drugfree.org. If cigarettes were banned because they’re harmful, we’d need to ban alcohol, energy drinks, stress and pretty much everything else around us.
A look at drug statistics shows that bans clearly don’t work. A 2013 national survey found that an estimated 24.6 million Americans 12 years old and older had used an illegal drug in the past month according to drugabuse.gov. If bans worked, this number should be zero.
People will find a way around the ban by illegally making their own cigarettes. I mean, look how well prohibition turned out. There would end up being an underground cartel for cigarettes and people would just start buying them from “cigarette dealers.” A ban wouldn’t work but the idea of a cigarette cartel might make an interesting movie.
Besides taking away a person’s right to choose, a ban wouldn’t pass because the government makes too much money the sale of tobacco. In 2010, the federal tax on cigarettes made the government $15.5 billion in revenue. Why would the government pass a ban that will cause them to lose that much revenue?
Besides the government, tobacco producers will fight to keep their jobs. Pharmaceutical companies that produce and sell medicines to those with tobacco-related illnesses will also rally against the ban. If the ban were to pass, the government would need to pay these employees unemployment, costing them even more money.
A ban on tobacco could also greatly increase our population. Smoking kills nearly 6 million people a year. If there were no more smokers, this many people would be added to our society, increasing our exponentially growing population while government revenues to help pay for these extra people would be decreasing.
Don’t misunderstand me. In no way am I advocating for people to die. All I’m saying is that from a government perspective, added people means added costs. They would take that into consideration when assessing the ban.
While I’m not a fan of smoking, cigarettes shouldn’t be banned completely. I do however, think they should be banned in certain situations. Society often makes laws that limit personal freedoms for the greater good of society. Smoking should be one of them. Nobody wants to be out for a nice family dinner and be clouded in smoke the whole time. Second-hand smoke causes damage too, so protecting those who choose not to smoke is important, but taking away people’s right to choose isn’t fair. We limit texting while driving for example, but don’t take away an individual’s right to own a cellphone. Smoking rights should be the same way.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
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