Should Smoking Be Prohibited?
“I ENJOY smoking very much. If it should cost a few years off my life, it’s worth it for the pleasure I get.” That’s how one man explained to his grandson why he smoked. Later the man died of cancer.
Yet there are longtime smokers who have survived to 80, or even 90, and enjoy relatively good health. So if a smoker understands the risks, should he be denied what he enjoys?
At the same time, does a smoker bear any responsibility as to how his cigarette habit affects others?
A Moral Responsibility?
It cannot be discounted—most smokers began smoking when they were young. In the Soviet Union, reports World Health magazine, “82.4 per cent of smokers questioned began to smoke before they were 19 years old.” Another study showed that about one third of regular smokers started smoking before they were nine years of age!
Why do children begin a habit that most of them later say they wish they could quit? Adult example is the primary reason. Children smoke to appear grown-up. They desire to emulate the tough, sophisticated world of the adult. In the Soviet Union four out of five smokers came from families in which an adult smoked. So although a smoker may feel that what he does is purely his own business, his example affects others.
Particularly is this so of the example of medical personnel. They are generally viewed as persons who know whether smoking is really hazardous to health. As a Journal of the American Medical Association editorial observed:
“Every unit of organized medicine should squarely face up to the fact that the images of its members are a prime factor in the behavior of patients. If we smoke or permit smoking at our meetings and in our medical institutions, we are clearly saying, ‘Don’t believe our words, look at what we do.’ Accordingly, medical establishments should eliminate smoking in all of their official functions and should urge individual members to carry these practices to their own offices and the medical institutions with which they are affiliated. After all, if physicians, who have the most knowledge of the disease-producing effects of smoking and who are generally rather disciplined people, refuse to take such action, how can we reasonably expect the average uninformed, relatively undisciplined layman to do better?”
So to back up the medical warnings on the hazards of smoking, you would expect that smoking would be prohibited in hospitals. But of the 7,200 hospitals in the United States, reported Medical World News, only 472 had designated nonsmoking areas, and merely 491 had banned cigarette sales. One hospital that had stopped selling cigarettes even reversed its policy “because business declined when the hospital gift shop eliminated cigarettes.”
What do you think of those who put money and self-interest before the welfare of others? Do you really care how your own example affects others? Sadly, self-interest so often rules. For example, in 1978 the Columbia Journalism Review failed to find, during the previous seven years, a single comprehensive article about the hazards of smoking in any major national magazine that accepted cigarette advertising.
Smoking Is Being Prohibited
Yet the trend is unmistakable. Smoking is being prohibited in more and more places. And when persons smoke in restricted areas they are often asked to extinguish their cigarettes.
Some states in the U.S. have adopted strict antismoking laws. In Minnesota, smoking is prohibited in public places, with “public places” being defined as “any enclosed, indoor area used by the general public.” Utah has imposed similar smoking restrictions, so that, as it is explained, “smokers in Utah are now completely free to smoke only when out of doors or in private homes!”
Also, commercial airplanes in the U.S. are now required by law to provide a seat in a nonsmoking area for every passenger who wants one.
Many smokers resent the increasing number of restrictions on their freedom to smoke. Last December a man, who was asked to put out his cigarette, shot dead the police officer who asked him! Are the prohibitions justified?
Effect on Nonsmokers
Few may be aware of the tremendous damage smoking causes to others, in addition to the smoker. For example, many thousands die every year in smoking-caused fires, 2,000 annually in the U.S. alone! In Canada, more than 40 percent of all fires are directly related to smoking.
Furthermore, cigarette smoke badly pollutes the air. During a football game inside Michigan’s Pontiac Silverdome a sampling of the air revealed that the level of particulates was high enough to cause an air pollution alert if it had occurred outside. Smoking by many of the 80,000 fans was responsible.
The effect of breathing smoke-filled air can be the same as if a person himself smoked. The American Medical News, quoting Dr. Charles F. Tate, said: “There are studies now that show if you sit in a room where smoking is going on, depending on the number of people smoking in the room and the size of the room, the non-smoker will be smoking the equivalent of a pack a day.” And breathing the smoke from an idling cigarette is actually more harmful, since it contains almost twice as much tar and nicotine as smoke that is inhaled while a person is puffing a cigarette.
For some time it has been recognized that nonsmoking adults with heart and lung diseases, as well as young children, suffer damage from cigarette fumes. Recently a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that healthy, adult nonsmokers also suffer adverse effects. “Now, for the first time, we have a quantitative measurement of a physical change,” write Dr. Claude Lenfant and Barbara Liu in an accompanying editorial in the aforementioned journal.
Especially is it dangerous to an unborn child for a pregnant woman to smoke. Smoking constricts the blood vessels and arteries in the uterus, depriving the unborn baby of necessary oxygen and nutrients. Also, poisonous carbon monoxide passes through the placenta, reaching the baby. “It is quite clear,” Dr. Mary B. Meyer of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health says, “that smoking increases the risk of abortion, stillbirth and pre-term delivery.”
Considering the harm done to the smoker, as well as to those who may be forced to breathe his smoke, can’t you see good reason to prohibit smoking? Jehovah’s Witnesses have long shown that smoking is incompatible with Bible principles. “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit,” God’s Word says. (2 Cor. 7:1) Clearly, smoking defiles and often sickens the smoker, as well as those near him. How, then, can a person smoke and love others who desire to remain undefiled by the smoke?—Matt. 22:39.
When God’s kingdom has destroyed the loveless old system of things, there will no longer be any tobacco smokers. Smoking certainly is not here to stay. So if you want to remain to enjoy the blessings of God’s new order—and you happen to be a tobacco smoker—you must get rid of this defiling habit. And if you really want to, you can do it!
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Adult example is the primary reason why children begin to smoke
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Smoking is being prohibited in more and more places
Breathing the smoke from an idling cigarette is more harmful than inhaling smoke while puffing a cigarette
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Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth
Can a person live by Bible principles and smoke?