Skip to main content

Should Cigarettes Be Banned Completely?

Cigarette butts in ash. An enjoyable pastime to many tobacco users, the habit is seen as anti-social and health-threatening to many non-smokers. Smoking is restricted in most developed countries nowadays, but a full ban would be a big step.

Cigarette butts in ash. An enjoyable pastime to many tobacco users, the habit is seen as anti-social and health-threatening to many non-smokers. Smoking is restricted in most developed countries nowadays, but a full ban would be a big step.

Should Smoking Be Banned?

As the negative health effects of smoking cigarettes and passive smoking have become clearer in recent decades, many governments have increased punitive taxes and anti-smoking legislation. Some people believe that further actions should be taken by banning cigarettes entirely.

Pro-smoking groups, however, argue that the civil rights of the individual should permit people to make their own personal choice about whether they smoke or not, and also that banning cigarettes would almost certainly be as unsuccessful as Prohibition was when alcohol was made illegal in the U.S. back in the '20s and '30s.

This article looks at the question of whether or not cigarettes should be banned and lists the main arguments that are used for and against.

Arguments for Banning Cigarettes

  • Cigarettes are the single biggest cause of premature death on the planet. They have been described as a “delivery system for toxic chemicals and carcinogens” and are a direct cause of heart attacks, strokes, lung disease, different forms of cancer, plus many other serious illnesses and health conditions too numerous to list.
  • As well as causing health damage to the smoker, the effects of passive smoking on people around smokers are increasingly becoming evident as more research is done in this area.
  • Cigarette smoking is anti-social. Smoky bars, restaurants, and waiting rooms provide an unhealthy atmosphere for smokers and non-smokers alike. Cigarette smoke causes bad smells and nicotine stains.
  • One danger that is often underestimated is the link between cigarette smoking and fires in the home and workplace. Lit cigarettes are a major fire risk and often people fail to put them out properly when they are tired, distracted, or intoxicated.
  • Nicotine is extremely addictive. The withdrawal symptoms are intense and there is a high rate of people who fail to quit, or relapse. Some people end up spending their entire lives addicted.
  • Smokers are a heavy burden on health care services, because of the severity and wide range of ailments that cigarettes cause. The public end up paying more through taxes or insurance payments, effectively funding the unhealthy lifestyle choices of smokers.
  • The tobacco industry is exploitative. Having found themselves under pressure in the West, they have now shifted their focus to Third World countries in Africa and Asia, where anti-smoking restrictions are weaker. People in these countries can end up spending food money on cigarettes because they are addicted to nicotine.

The true face of smoking is disease, death and horror—not the glamour and sophistication the pushers in the tobacco industry try to portray.

— David Byrne

Facts About Smoking in the USA

  • 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. each year is caused by smoking.
  • It has been estimated that each cigarette smoked takes 11 minutes off the smoker's lifespan.
  • For every person who dies from smoking, there are 20 people who suffer from at least one serious smoking-related illness.
  • Each cigarette contains around 4,800 chemicals. Out of these, 69 are cancerous.
  • Secondhand smoke causes around 50,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
  • In 2012, it was calculated that 18.1% of Americans aged 18 and over smoked.
  • More men smoke than women, although the gap appears to be narrowing. In 2009, 23.5% of men smoked compared to 17.9% of women.

Smoking is related to practically every terrible thing that can happen to you.

— Loni Anderson

It is better to not even try it than to endure the ramifications of either quitting smoking or dying.

— Christy Turlington

Arguments Against Banning Cigarettes

  • People's civil liberties are not negotiable. They should have the right to choose what they do with their own lives and bodies without interference from governments and other authorities.
  • As mentioned in the introduction, prohibition just wouldn’t work. Banning cigarettes would create a huge black market that would be exploited by criminals and dwarf the problems associated currently with drug dealing.
  • Unlike alcohol or illegal drugs like heroin or meth, tobacco use causes none of the social and crime problems associated with people being intoxicated or addicted.
  • Smokers pay more tax than non-smokers due to the high tax on cigarettes, banning cigarettes would mean a reduction in taxation revenue for the government.
  • Cigarettes help many people to relax and can improve concentration. They are also a particular source of pleasure for many people.
  • The tobacco industry creates thousands of jobs around the world. These would be lost if cigarettes were banned.

Smoking calms me down. It's enjoyable. I don't want politicians deciding what is exciting in my life.

— David Hockney

List of Famous Smokers

  • David Bowie smoked Gitane and Marlboros.
  • George Harrison of the Beatles was a heavy smoker.
  • Kate Moss, the model, smokes Marlboro Lights.
  • Walt Disney, pioneering animator, was a chain smoker all his life.
  • Albert Einstein, the great scientist, favored a pipe.
  • Sigmund Freud, the Austrian founder of psychoanalysis, loved his cigars.
  • George Orwell, author of 1984, was never without a cigarette.
  • Actor John Wayne was a smoker.
  • Humphrey Bogart was also big on smoking and died from a smoking-related illness.
  • Nicole Kidman, the Australian actress, caused controversy when she lit up at the Cannes Film Festival.
  • Who could imagine Winston Churchill without a fat cigar?
  • Spanish artist Pablo Picasso liked his tobacco too.
  • Left-wing revolutionary Che Guevara liked to puff on a big Cuban cigar.

Coffee and smoking are the last great addictions.

— Lara Flynn Boyle

The culture is about moving to a place where tobacco and smoking isn't part of normal life: people don't encounter it normally, they don't see it in their big supermarkets, they don't see people smoking in public places, they don't see tobacco vending machines.

— Andrew Lansley

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.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do you think I could use this for my essay about smoking be banned?

Answer: Legally, you can quote small sections from anything that is published in books or on the web. If you use more than a few paragraphs then you could run into copyright issues. Although if your essay is just for school or college and you are making no financial gain from it, then it's unlikely to be a problem.

© 2012 Paul Goodman