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Should Cigarettes Be Banned Completely?

Updated on March 24, 2017
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Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

Cigarette butts in ash.  An enjoyable past time 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 past time 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. | Source

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 US 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 in support of or against cigarettes.

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

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

— Loni Anderson

Yes, Cigarettes SHOULD be Banned

  • 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.

Smoker.  The habit is generally declining in First World countries.  Consequently, cigarette manufacturers have increasingly focused on new expanding markets in places like Asia.
Smoker. The habit is generally declining in First World countries. Consequently, cigarette manufacturers have increasingly focused on new expanding markets in places like Asia. | Source
  • 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 all 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.

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

— Christy Turlington
Should smoking be banned: Old woman smoking a roll up cigarette.  It has been clear since the middle of the twentieth century that smoking is hugely detrimental to health, yet the practice still remains relatively common.
Should smoking be banned: Old woman smoking a roll up cigarette. It has been clear since the middle of the twentieth century that smoking is hugely detrimental to health, yet the practice still remains relatively common. | Source

Facts about Smoking in The USA

  • 1 in 5 deaths in the US 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 US.
  • 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.

I don't want to quit smoking. I am convinced that if I quit smoking, the world would go to hell.

— Marjane Satrapi

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

— David Hockney

No, Cigarettes SHOULD NOT be Banned

  • 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.

Coffee and smoking are the last great addictions.

— Lara Flynn Boyle
Young man smoking.  Some people associate smoking with contemplation and time out from the world.
Young man smoking. Some people associate smoking with contemplation and time out from the world. | Source

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.

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
Young man smoking.  Younger people tend to smoke more than older people.  Men also tend to smoke more than women (although the gender gap is narrowing).
Young man smoking. Younger people tend to smoke more than older people. Men also tend to smoke more than women (although the gender gap is narrowing). | Source

Your opinion!

Should smoking be banned?

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© 2012 Paul Goodman

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    • FloridaFacts profile image

      FloridaFacts 5 years ago from Florida USA

      I am an ex-smoker and hate cigarettes nowadays - but I don't think they should be banned completely!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is a real problem as Joanna states.

      Many children in the UK still smoke 'because' it is frowned upon.

      The banning has had the opposite effect to that what was desired.

      voted up and interesting.

    • Joanna Verdan profile image

      Joanna Slodownik 5 years ago from New Jersey

      I agree. It's enough to look at what prohibition did in the past, and what the so-called war-on-drugs is doing today. Banning and criminalizing use of substances clearly doesn't work. Education, providing alternatives, etc. is what is needed.