Readers have responded to my blogs about cigarettes by comparing cigarettes to other products such as sugar and alcohol. When I suggest that cigarettes be outlawed or at least treated as a controlled substance like strong pain killers, reader comments have compared that idea to prohibition and use the failure of prohibition as a reason not to take the same approach with cigarettes.
Because of the deadly and addictive nature of cigarettes, it isn’t possible to make valid comparisons between cigarettes and any other product sold over the counter. A closer look reveals the weaknesses of the comparisons.
Let’s start with prohibition. Attempts to outlaw alcohol were based on religious and moral beliefs. One group of Americans believed that drinking alcohol was immoral and attempted to force their beliefs on others. Prohibition didn’t work because there is nothing immoral about drinking alcohol in moderation and, in a free society, attempts to force the moral views of one group on another are doomed to failure.
I am not suggesting that smoking cigarettes is immoral nor am I saying that non-smokers are somehow morally superior to smokers. My point is that cigarettes are a defective and deadly product and that it is immoral to manufacture and sell a product that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, many of whom don’t even smoke.
One of the primary responsibilities of our government is to protect its citizens. Numerous governmental departments and agencies such as the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration exist for just that purpose. Whether the threat to the public is from a hostile government or tainted food, we expect and even demand that our government protect us.
Cigarette manufacturers have placed the profit motive ahead of any concerns for the health and well-being of people of the world. They knowingly create an addictive product, intentionally market that product to young people (most new smokers pick up the habit before they are 18) and have rationalized as acceptable the death of millions of people as an unfortunate side effect of their efforts. If that isn’t immoral behavior, what is?
If cigarette manufacturers won’t voluntarily stop making cigarettes then it is the responsibility and duty of the government, meaning we the people, to step in and put a stop to the manufacture of cigarettes.