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Tobacco Versus Alcohol: A Modern Double Standard

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Are different standards applied to smokers versus alcoholics?

Are different standards applied to smokers versus alcoholics?

Big Tobacco vs. Big Alcohol: A Modern Double Standard

In the often overused words of one of our famous past presidents, “Let me be clear..."

Let me be clear. I do not smoke and I have fewer alcoholic drinks in a year than I can count on one hand. I experienced my 18-year-old rite of passage with a ceremonial pack of smokes. I hated it, couldn’t stand the smell, the taste was awful and the after effect jitters were obnoxious. Three years later I would mark another milestone with booze (actually I was a few months shy of turning 21, but it was my bachelors night for crying out loud). I again met this ritualistic exposé openly and dumbfounded by its useless after effect. Fast forward to the present, I am 32 years old and I neither smoke nor drink. In my opinion, this gives me far greater leverage to point out how ridiculous both sides act and how our government put the transmission into hypocrisy overdrive.

Tackling a topic like tobacco is a daunting task. Like any habit, there are individuals who know how to moderate their use, thus not making themselves into a caricature of the product. On the other hand, there are those who were born without a shut off valve and they simply cannot help themselves. Here is my opinionated honest disclosure; smoking isn’t sexy, it isn’t cool, it’s a nuisance and seems rather irrational to partake of.

However that may be, it is legal, and those who wish to exercise their right to practice this habit deserve some latitude. Next, common sense dictates brain knowledge would identify breathing in toxic fumes are not healthy, okay. Smoking is also progressively getting more expensive via authoritarian taxation and the healthcare industry getting tired of wasting valuable resources on pre-existing stupid people. One more nasty point to make then I will move on; you smokers who throw your used butts out the window…you deserve to come home to a house filled from the tile to the ceiling in cigarette butts. Your litter is shameful and atrociously lazy. Now its time I shift gears and do a little defending of this gross habit and smokers in general. My reasons for defending are simple; in my heart of hearts, I wish our society practiced more libertarianism tempered by strong ethical conduct and take no prisoners justice. I would be for a more open society as long as we dealt with criminals swiftly and harshly. There is a negligence (many to be more correct) practiced by our federal government in the lopsided demonization of smokers. There are thousands of ways in which we can abuse our bodies and mistreat it over a lifetime. America has developed progressive tactics designed to ostracize smokers and alienate them from the rest of the herd. I feel we are long overdue in exposing the gross double standard on display when alcohol use is not compared to cigarette use.


Most of us are very familiar with the anti-smoking campaigns and movies designed to humiliate lousy companies like Philip Morris. I will not address the actions of tobacco company executives; I do not separate them from pre-1970s asbestos executives. This isn’t about the companies; it is about the users in general. So, we’ve seen the commercials played on TV and before blockbuster movies, mocking tobacco users. We’ve seen the silent video’s of students playing dead in the streets with one of them holding up a sign stating “this is how many people die of tobacco use everyday.”

My question is where are the similar ads for alcohol? How many women were beaten after their drunk ass old man came home from the bar griping about his lousy day? How many teenagers will never make it to college because they were killed by a drunk driver? How many women are date-raped because alcohol was involved? How many AA meeting are held every week in America by people desperately wishing to kick their addiction. How many breathalyzer testing machines have been installed in civilian cars because they cannot help themselves? If we could accurately answer all of these questions, smoking would pale in performance compared with the damage done by alcohol. But alcohol doesn’t get the same treatment…why is that?

Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities declined by 7.4 percent in 2009—10,839 compared to 11,711 reported in 2008. Overall, 33 states and Puerto Rico experienced a decline in the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2009 compared to 2008. (Oh good, so only 27 states experienced an increase in alcohol-related deaths.)

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Negative Consequences of Alcohol

  • Drunk driving fatalities: The number of fatalities in teenage drunk driving has declined 37% since 2000 and is down 74% since tracking began in 1982. Going from 4,214 in 1982 to 1,720 in 2000 and 1,180 fatalities in 2009. A record low. There were over 3,000 fewer deaths per year compared to 1982. (Yeah, and little Mikey rolling his mom's 2008 Mercedes ML350 is a whole lot safer versus dad's old Chevrolet Citation. What a novel concept, we have safer vehicles, but wait, only 1,180 teenagers unnecessarily died— a record low people, rejoice.)
  • Sexual assault on campus: On average, at least 50% of college students' sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use.
  • Rape: More than half of rapists had been drinking.
  • Crimes, suicides, accidents: Heavy drinking is involved in 60% of violent crimes, 30% of suicides, and 80% of fire and drowning accidents.
  • Murders: Of all murders, alcohol was involved in at least 34% of cases.
  • Child abuse: Convicted mothers are three times more likely to be alcoholics. Convicted fathers are 10 times more likely to be alcoholics.
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome: 2.9% of 1,000 live births have fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Health care costs: The use of alcohol cost $15 billion (1983) for health care and treatment.

Look, this isn’t a condemnation of casual drinkers who exercise wisdom and safe behavior. This is a conversation about exploring why or how the public perceives the radical difference in treatment of tobacco users versus alcohol users. All rational perspective points to how frighteningly destructive alcohol abusers are. What does under the influence really mean? Does it mean someone lighting up a cigarette is five times more likely to cause an auto accident? Is a pack a day smoker more likely to go home and beat on their children because their serotonin levels dropped and they hate their life? Get real.

Herein lays another tremendous societal double standard; the mighty push to legalize marijuana. I claim no expertise in understanding the effects of second hand smoke, which happens to be one of the most over-hyped rhetorical abuses laid against smokers. Does health related issues arrive from years of second hand smoke, yes. However, so does second hand alcohol abuse, only its much more visible and costly. I suppose all smoke isn’t created equal. If it is marijuana smoke, then all of a sudden it is acceptable for baby Julie to absorb; after all, it’s a natural inhalant! In another hub, I already said my piece about marijuana, so I am not beating that drum; I am only trying to understand how trial lawyers line up to strike down one form of abuse while working to promote another form of abuse.

Logically I know several readers will say follow the money. In the end, it’s always the money. In the 1950s and '60s when the tobacco industry was in their heyday, they had a mighty powerful lobby, but much like the NRA, socialist groups…I mean slant groups work to demoralize and denigrate product supporters and those who like to protect individual rights. The pure hatred for smoking seems to be mostly an American topic. If we look at Eastern countries, they do not harbor such an incipient hatred for Marlboro and Camel users.

Reasons to Hate Smokers

  • Tobacco companies target children with their advertising (yeah, and alcohol companies never cater to young men)
  • Tobacco use is a huge contributor to the skyrocketing costs of healthcare (I am sure it contributes, but how does alcohol-related vehicular manslaughter stack up in human cost, insurance, auto and health?).
  • Tobacco use is harming the environment. (Remember the Captain of the Exxon Valdez “Joseph Hazelwood” who was under the influence of alcohol? That was a lot of damage by one inebriated guy!)
  • Tobacco use is a disgusting habit. (Waking up face down in a pile of your own vomit is glamorous?)
  • Smoking in a restaurant ruins my meal. (Sure it is annoying, but no more than dudes who develop larger beer muscles with each sip of Jack Daniels.)
  • Smoking is a turn-off. (I agree, however, someone can’t slip ecstasy in your Virginia Slim and then take you somewhere to date-rape you.)

I think you get my drift. I am not advocating the strict ban of either; I am tired of the dishonesty for which people perpetrate in the name of causes. Moreover I do not want to hear the tired excuse that prohibition failed, it's about the money. We know marijuana proponents continue to fight for legalization, and now 15 states currently have some form of legalized pot. Looks like more money for state coffers. Just try to find all the money spent on anti-smoking campaigns, maybe that money could have been better spent toward child education? I personally like how Californians used $14.5 million dollars for anti-smoking commercials during Super Bowl, click the LA Times link below.

Please, find your own facts, come to your own conclusion, but the next time you see someone light up, think about a drunk driver and ask yourself who is worse. Thanks for reading.


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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