Should cigarettes be illegal?

Screenshot of Mad Men
Screenshot of Mad Men

The regulation of deadly cancer sticks

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor

Smoking is one of the deadliest habits there is. Thousands of people in Canada and millions of people around the world die every year because of smoking cigarettes, both from their own habit as well as exposure to second-hand smoke. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances there is: Studies show that nicotine addiction can be just as powerful, if not more so, than addictions to heroin.

Cigarettes and tobacco products having many harmful effects has been proven, repeatedly. It is a well-known fact: Smoking highly increases your chances of getting cancer, heart disease, and many other diseases. While it’s illegal for minors to buy cigarettes, they are freely available in unlimited quantities at government stores for any adult to buy.

The government regulates many substances for our health and safety. Some are no doubt more dangerous than others. Many legal drugs are abused, and many illegal drugs are widely considered safe and recreational. The logic of why certain substances are illegal and others are sold in most stores is baffling. There are very few positive qualities for cigarettes. They are not healthy in any way, nor do they even give the intoxicating effect that other substances do. All they do is decrease withdrawal symptoms. Plus, they taste terrible.

Cigarettes are highly addictive, and as such highly in demand. Millions of Canadians smoke, and over a billion people do worldwide. Tobacco is a multi-billion dollar industry.

I don’t think outlawing cigarettes would be feasible, or popular. Cigarettes are some of the most harmful substances in existence, but also some of the most popularly abused. Very few people who smoke do it casually or do so without some sort of habit.

I would support cigarette harm reduction being encouraged, which is already implemented in some aspects. Cigarettes are already expensive, but maybe they should be even more so. Smoking costs the health care system millions each year in treating smokers and second-hand smoke victims.

If you choose to smoke, you are not just harming yourself. You are annoying (and in some cases, hurting) those around you who are exposed to the smoke. Designated smoking areas and laws exist, but they are often not followed. Some people smoke at bus stops, while walking down the sidewalk, or in crowded public areas, like parks. Other regulated substances are prohibited, except in private areas. Why can you smoke in public, but you can’t drink a beer? Why can you buy cigarettes at 7-Eleven, but you can’t buy a joint? Why can you buy a carton of cigarettes at the same pharmacy where prescription drugs are on a time-delay because of their harmful and addictive effects?

There’s a lot of hypocrisy in tobacco laws due to the popularity of cigarettes, and lobbying. Thankfully, they’re now more restricted than they ever have been. It remains to be seen what the best way to help people stop smoking is, or how much more cigarettes can be regulated, but there’s no doubt that a lot fewer people smoke than in the past. Regulation really does save lives.