Example Of Argumentative Essay On Should Smoking Be Legal In Public Areas?
The debate about whether or not smoking in public should be prohibited is currently a contentious issue in America. While some states have decided to place bans on all public smoking, many states still have not done so. There are many arguments on each side and the evidence is controversial. The basic argument is about potential health risks against personal freedom. While there is not an absolute right answer, most of the evidence goes in favor of smoking bans, as the loss of personal freedom is minimal compared to the harm that could be done due to public smokers.
The evidence for banning smoking in public areas is divided up among health and environmental reasons. Currently, 28 states have banned all smoking in enclosed public places. While the federal government has not passed any legislation outlawing smoking in public places, many states and cities have passed their own regulations (“Overview List”). Most commonly, smoking has become increasingly banned in bars and restaurants, which is upsetting to many in the smoking community. However, with smoking becoming increasingly rare in restaurants and bars, there are talks about banning it in every public location, even outdoor ones.
The evidence towards banning smoking is enclosed public areas is substantial, because the primary argument is that of the dangers of secondhand smoke. Second hand smoke comes in two forms: sidestream and mainstream. Sidestream is smoke from the lighted end of cigarette or pipe, and mainstream is the smoke exhaled by a smoker. Despite the fact these two are usually considered the same thing, this is a misconception. Sidestream smoke is more deadly because it has higher concentrations of cancer-causing agents. This is due to the fact that this smoke is not going through the filter. However, both forms of smoke have shown negative health benefits (“Secondhand Smoke”).
Secondhand smoke is a “known human carcinogen” as described by the EPA. This is because tobacco smoke has about 250 compounds that have harmful effects, many of which are directly linked to cancer. The most common cancer caused by secondhand smoke is lung cancer, although cigarette smoke has also been linked to leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, and brain tumors. There are also harmful effects of secondhand smoke to pregnant mothers, as their child could be harmed. On top of these cancer risks, secondhand smoke is also estimated to cause 42,000 deaths of non-smokers due to heart disease. Approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults are attributed to secondhand smoke, as well as many cases of asthma and respiratory tract infections. All tolled together, an estimated $10 billion per year is spent in the health care system due to secondhand smoke issues (“Secondhand Smoke”).
This is a significant amount of money, which is why there are so many states now moving to ban smoking in enclosed areas. With all these health risks, it seems obvious that these types of smoking bans are in the best interest of public safety. Because of this, the government can regulate smoking in public, as protecting the public is one of their primary roles. Some personal freedom is always given up for public safety. The millions of potential people harmed, and $10 billion are good reasons to give up a minor personal freedom.
However, the debate about banning smoking in public has recently expanded to include outdoor areas. While this may seem strange, or unnecessary, there is some evidence supporting this position. First of all, there has been scientific evidence that shows higher concentrations of secondhand smoke in outdoor areas than indoor ones. Because of this, some states, like California, have labeled outdoor tobacco smoke as a “toxic air pollutant” (“Reasons for Banning Smoking”). Second, drifting tobacco smoke in the outdoor air creates a severe risk of triggering asthmatic attacks or bronchial infections for nearly 100 million Americans easily susceptible to these attacks. Yet drifting tobacco smoke is also troublesome for those without these pre-dispositions. The CDC warns that breathing tobacco smoke for 30 minutes can raise a non-smoker’s risk of a heart attack more than an actual smoker. Third, societal norms have dictated that they have the right not to be involuntarily exposed to harmful chemicals and carcinogens. There was historical precedent set in asbestos removal, and further activities that are deemed harmful for the general public, such as alcohol, loud music, profanity, and inappropriate attire, is banned in many public places, both indoors and outdoors. Finally, there are environmental reasons to ban cigarette smoke in outdoor public areas. Discarded cigarette butts cause litter, burns to young children, and fire hazards when left unattended. This can have a negative effect on wildlife, as they too can be exposed to cigarette butts (“Reasons for Banning Smoking”).
While there is clearly a substantial amount of evidence in favor of banning smoking in indoor public places, as well as some evidence for an outdoor ban, there are still some who are against all regulations and bans. According to Dr. Ronald Bayer, there are several reasons why smoking bans are an intrusion of freedom, despite the fact of the health statistics. He states that there is a double standard amongst libertarians about other drugs, like marijuana and cocaine. While many push for those drugs to be legal in the public sphere, when confronted with tobacco, they still support the ban. Furthermore, Dr. Bayer does not find conclusive proof regarding the environmental and health stats, and believes they are exaggerated (Clune).
Bayer does not see substantial environmental damage due to cigarette butts, and says the warnings about it are speculation. He finds very little actual, direct causal evidence that supports the fact that smoking itself can cause this much harm. However, Bayer does not think smoking is all that good for society, but the emphasis is being put in the wrong place. He thinks these bans are really a way to cut down the amount of people who smoke and make it harder for more people to begin. The stats and bans are all a cover for simply wanting fewer smokers. He does not object to having fewer smokers, but taking away freedom from those who do is wrong (Clune).
In conclusion, the arguments about whether or not to ban smoking in public areas is a contested issue, and really comes down to how much the evidence about secondhand smoke can be trusted. Most of what Bayer says about the statistics cannot be conclusively proven, and while there may be slightly less risk than what is made out to be, studies have certainly linked secondhand smoke to cancer and heart disease. Furthermore any object that is lit and giving off toxic chemicals can potentially cause environmental damage, regardless of how much it is currently doing. Therefore, the stronger case can be made for banning smoking in all public areas, despite the fact it would cause a loss of freedom for those who do smoke.
Clune, Sarah. "The Real Reason Behind Public Smoking Bans." The Real Reason Behind Public Smoking Bans. PBS, 8 July 2013. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/the-real-reasons-behind-public-smoking-bans/>.
"Overview List." How Many Smokefree Laws? American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/mediaordlist.pdf>.
"Reasons For Banning Smoking." Sate of Michigan. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/2_Reasons_outdoors_382580_7.pdf>.
"Secondhand Smoke." American Cancer Society, 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/tobaccocancer/secondhand-smoke>.