Why Hasn’t the Government Banned Cigarettes?

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The fact that smoking is deadly is no secret. It has become such widespread knowledge that it is now a platitude repeated over and over again in schools, at the doctor’s office, and even on TV. Yet as self-evident as the dangers of smoking are, cigarettes are still as easy to get as a bottle of water. So the nagging question remains: why don’t government simply ban recreational tobacco use? It seems like a simple question, but the answer is conversely complex.  Let’s take a look at some of the reasons governments turn a blind eye to the possibility of banning cigarettes in order to better understand the polemics surrounding the tobacco debate.

Free will. This is a concept that is a major driving force behind the tobacco debate and it shows up on both sides of the aisle. Those of us who know that smoking is a habit believe in free will; we believe that smoking is a choice and that each person has the power to make the healthier choice: to quit smoking. On the other hand, those of us who promote tobacco believe that each person has the free choice to do whatever he or she wants with his or her body. However, the problem with the pro-tobacco use of free will is that it has no limits—at what point do you say that an individual does not have the right to do whatever he or she wants with his or her body (or to the bodies of others). It is faulty reasoning that leads down the dangerous path of justifying poor and unhealthy choices. Conversely, the conception of free will held by anti-smoking advocates is not about allowing everything, but about exercising good judgment: anti-smoking free will is about enabling and empowering people to make healthy choices and helping them feel responsible enough to do so. You may be wondering what all of this has to do with governments completely banning tobacco, but it read on and you will see that misusing the concept of free will has everything to do with the continued presence of cigarettes on the market.

One reason that tobacco has survived on the market as long as it has is because government officials fear that impinging on people’s free will by banning cigarettes will do nothing but lead to black markets and backlashes like those that often accompany controlled substance prohibitions. Government officials often claim that they can at least keep smokers safer by regulating the industry and circumventing the crime and violence associated with black market activities. They claim they don’t want to control people too much—they want them to be allowed to exercise their free will. If this was really governments’ motive behind keeping tobacco legal, then it would be a good argument worth pondering. Unfortunately, governments use the “we-don’t-want-to-impinge-upon-free-will-because-of-black-markets” argument as a smoke screen to blind the public the real reason why cigarettes haven’t been outlawed: money.

The United States’ Office on Smoking and Health, a branch of the Center for Disease Control, reports that the American government makes rakes in almost 6 billion dollars a year in tax revenue from cigarettes. According to Tobacco in Australia, revenue generated from taxing tobacco exceeds 6 billion AUD a year. So let’s be blunt: tobacco is a cash cow for governments. They may appeal to some kind of morality about free will and fear of black markets when they publicly discuss why they don’t outright outlaw tobacco, but the truth is that they need the money they get from taxing Big Tobacco. Plain and simple.

Now, don’t read any of this the wrong way. If tobacco was outlawed tomorrow, then you bet your bottom dollar there would be a black market for it just as there is for all illegal substances. And the fact that people can make choices and control their own lives is vital to the health of humans and the democratic system. However, with respect to the tobacco debate, it is time to start seeing clearly the fact that governments and Big Tobacco are Big Allies. Governments should exist to serve and protect their citizens, watching out for their best interests and keeping them safe from harm. As overly idealistic as it sounds, that is there job and with respect to smoking it seems that they are prioritizing money over lives, a situation that time and time again proves fatal not only to individuals, but also to societies. It is time for governments to take a stronger stand against Big Tobacco and start prioritizing health over profit. Whether or not that will ever happen, however, is another story for another day.

Who Tells Us Cigarettes and/or Nicotine Are Addictive?

To answer that question you need look no further than the cigarette companies and the government with their advertising and they are supported by the companies that manufacture products such as Nicorette, Nicabate etc and other non effective products marketed as Quit therapies.

Why do you think this is? Even though the government states it wants to see people quit smoking, the fact is their advertising is increasing the use of cigarettes. This is particularly prevalent with the young people who feel they are invincible and can easily stop smoking anytime they want. Of course they don’t realize until it is too late that it isn’t all that easy. In fact for some it is really difficult to quit.

In a way there is some reverse psychology taking place with the advertising. It is almost a challenge for young people to try. For example, in ads on cigarette packets and billboards you will see the words about smoking or nicotine being addictive. For those people who already smoke it just makes it so much harder for them to stop smoking as the word “addictive” has such awful connotations. “Am I really addicted to nicotine or smoking?” they ask themselves. They thought they were just smoking because they enjoyed it, they weren’t aware they were addicted to smoking. So this raises the barrier even higher for them. They may even justify their smoking by saying ‘oh well I am addicted what is the point of trying to stop’.

Have you ever seen a methamphetamine or heroin addicted person coming down from their addiction? Perhaps not in real life, maybe in a movie or TV show. They have quite severe physical reactions don’t they? Do you ever see people who stop smoking having this kind of reaction? The answer of course is no, as people are not physically addicted to Nicotine or smoking. They may get a bit crabby and irritable but certainly not a physical reaction. So what is happening then? Well the answer is simple.

Am I really addicted to smoking or Nicotine?

Most people start smoking during their socialization years of between 10 and 21. Young people are endeavoring to “fit in” with their peers and when they see a group of friends smoking they may feel left out if they are not doing as others do. They may even be taunted to join them with “why don’t you have one? Are you a mummy’s boy or are you a wus?” Now they feel even worse and so they have one and while initially they choke and splutter they feel better and now they fit in. They link up the “feeling better” with a cigarette so when they need to feel happy or raise their spirits, they reach for the cigarettes. And so the habit begins. So yes, the good news is that smoking is a habit but a very powerful habit that people may feel powerless to break.

Solution to stop smoking

There are a number of alternatives on the market such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy with a variety of products available. This has a very low success rate of between 10-16% although recent research shows 8% success rate. While Nicotine patches are being promoted quite heavily there are also considerable concerns for their safety. For example a young man aged 23 was driving home while wearing the patch and suddenly experienced severe heart palpitations, sweating and dizziness. He called his family as he thought he was having a heart attack. Once the patch was removed the symptoms eased and in a short while stopped altogether. In research people say they have cut the patches into quarters as they were too strong and many people said they just made them sick or they didn’t work.

People have stated they have taken Nicorette Microtab to help them to stop smoking and have stopped smoking but cannot stop taking the tablets. So they replaced one habit with another.

Medication

Zyban (bupropion) and Champex (varincelin) are prescribed medication and while there is limited success there is also a dark side of these drugs.

In the UK, more than 7,600 reports of suspected adverse reactions were collected in the first two years after Zyban’s approval by the MHRA as part of the Yellow Card System which monitored side effects. In 2009 the FDA issued a health advisory, which warned that the prescription of Zyban and Champex for smoking cessation has been associated with reports about unusual behaviour changes, agitation and hostility. Some patients have become depressed or have had their depression worsen, have had thoughts about suicide or dying, or have attempted suicide. The MHRA received 60 reports of “suspected adverse reactions to Zyban which had a fatal outcome”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bupropion

Drug regulators are set to bolster the warning requirements of two popular smoking cessation drugs in response to continuing concerns over their serious psychiatric side effects. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said it would “strengthen” prescribing and consumer information warnings for Champix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion), following a decision earlier in the week by its US counterpart. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will compel manufacturers to include a boxed warning about their drugs’ impact on mental health, including a risk.. (see the PharmacyNews Australian Website).

There is a solution

There are a variety of services available using alternative therapies such as acupuncture, hypnosis, herbal remedies, aromatherapy and cold turkey. These all have some success.

However the combination of Hypnosis, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Reframing has a huge success rate of 95.6%. It is one session of 60 minutes only and the person will stop smoking for life. If the person should relapse and takes up smoking again be it in six months or even 6 years then with their lifetime guarantee they are welcome to come back for another session for free. Maureen Hamilton is an Integrated Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner and a DeMartini Method Facilitator. Maureen has previously worked in many areas of health in Australia as well as overseas. Maureen enjoys helping people improve their lives by facilitating their emotional and physical wellbeing and lasting happiness. A holistic approach is the only way to ensure a person will have a successful outcome from their Quit smoking program. A successful outcome will instill an attitude of positiveness that reverses the mindset of once addicted always addicted.

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