Because smoking kills over 480,000 people a year in the US alone, should it be banned?


Fact Box

  • According to the CDC, 34.2 million American adults were cigarette smokers in 2018. 
  • In 1965, the federal government mandated that all cigarette packs sold in the US must show a warning label saying that cigarettes are hazardous to health.
  • A Gallup News report from 2018 revealed that one in every four Americans supports a total ban on cigarette smoking
  • A recent study funded by the Medical Research Council in England found that there are certain DNA factors that determine the level of risk for developing diseases from long-term smoking.  

Kasey (No)

Even if the government were to put a legal restriction on smoking, people would still not be discouraged from doing it. By looking at what happened during the Prohibition era, when alcohol consumption was made illegal, it's clear to see how smoking bans would play out.

'The noble experiment' was meant, in part, to cut down the corruption and crime that marred the early years of the 20th century. The economic theory behind the idea was solid, but it didn't translate so well in practice. Americans weren't willing to give up their alcohol, so they turned to illegal means to get it. Some people made their own moonshine and poisoned themselves. Crime became organized, alcohol consumption actually rose, and law enforcement didn't have the manpower to keep up. 

The war on drugs, which has been compared to Prohibition, has followed a similar unsuccessful route. Likewise, we could reasonably expect the same to happen in a war against tobacco.

Federal and state laws generally don't dictate policies related to smoking allowances. Those decisions are left up to individual establishments as part of their private property rights. Some places, such as state-funded schools, are subject to legislation that bans smoking on campus grounds because these businesses are funded by government tax money. But if those tax dollars are absent, then the law shouldn't be involved, either.

More than that, though, when a government bans smoking, they intrude on moral and legal concerns regarding the fundamental human right to individual authority. To do so goes against the very fabric of our Constitutional rights.

Ellie (Yes)

Smoking accounts for one in every five deaths across the United States each year. It kills more people than guns, illegal drugs, HIV, alcohol, and car accidents combined. It’s not only smokers who are affected: research has shown that about 42,000 non-smokers die each year in the U.S. due to second-hand smoke. Surely this loss of life alone justifies a smoking ban.

We all know that cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance. According to a 2011 study, nicotine can make the brain more vulnerable to cocaine addiction. Likewise, research suggests that smokers are more likely to use drugs such as marijuana and heroin. If cigarettes are banned, and nicotine addiction is curbed, fewer people may progress to taking “harder” drugs.

Cigarette use doesn’t just damage our bodies. It also harms the environment. The cigarette production process leads to massive fossil fuel emissions and deforestation. When the climate crisis is becoming ever more severe, these environmental concerns shouldn’t be ignored.

The economic benefits of a smoking ban could be huge. Each year, smoking-related health issues cost the U.S. economy more than $300 billion. And, in some cases, cigarette use can cost the individual up to $2.45 million over their lifetime in health costs, income loss, and more. Think of all the money that could be saved if smoking were banned.

Overall, the case for banning smoking is clear. A ban could boost the economy and benefit the environment. Most importantly, it could save thousands of lives.


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