The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

People Shoudn't Smoke Cigarettes

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/11/2012 Category: Health
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,569 times Debate No: 22755
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
Votes (2)




Smoking cigarettes is a known leading cause of death in many countries all over the world. The effects of smoking have been researched and there is no positive reason to smoke cigarettes knowing the negative effects it can have on you.

Even knowing this, people, for whatever reason, continue to smoke cigarettes. Everyone should be well aware of the negative effects cigarrettes have on them, and should therefore not smoke cigarretes.

Knowing that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer and respiratory problems, just for example, people should make the cognitive decision not to smoke cigarettes.

The debate will consists of 5 rounds
1. Acceptance
2. Argument/Rebuttal
3. Argument/Rebuttal
4. Argument/Rebuttal
5. Conclusions

There will be an 8,000 character limit and 72 hours to complete each round.


I accept, and I concede Pro's epidemological claims.
Debate Round No. 1


People should not smoke cigarettes.

When placing a bet, one must consider the following: the wager, the risk, and the reward.

The wager, in this case, is one's life, the risk being one's health and livelihood, and the reward a momentary relief of stress or a fleeting conversation at a bar. The bet is not in a smoker's favor.

Society has been aware of, for many years now, the effects smoking can have on a person. To be quite blunt: smoking kills. It is as simple as that. If one wants to live healthily, they shouldn't smoke.

It's been estimated that each cigarette one smokes takes twelve minutes off their life. Even the occasional cigarette adds up against a smoker. Minutes add up to hours, which add up to days, which add up to months, which add up to years. Smokers that smoke upwards of a pack a day are knowingly shaving time off of their already short lives.

Eight out of ten causes of lung cancer can be linked to smoking. Therefore, if one is not a smoker, their chances of obtaining lung cancer significantly drop – and vice versa – if one is a smoker, their chances of obtaining lung cancer drastically increases. There is still no direct cure of lung cancer, and those afflicted on average die within five years of becoming ill with the disease. Smoking cigarettes simply isn't worth one's life, and people shouldn't do it.

Quite obviously, cigarette is home to the poison nicotine. One drop, which would be seventy milligrams of nicotine injected into an average sized man, is deadly. Cigarettes can contain between .1 and .22 milligrams of nicotine. This alone is not enough to kill someone, but it does have immediate effects, which are an accelerated heartbeat and incessant hand shaking. Eventually with all of the cigarettes some smokers will smoke, they will reach that magic number of seventy milligrams, and their poor health will reflect it. People should not smoke cigarettes.

Not only are cigarettes dangerous to a smoker's health, but to a smoker's surroundings, as well. Fires started by lit cigarettes cause an estimated twenty five thousand deaths a year in solely the United States. One can only imagine what that number would be worldwide. These deaths are in vain and absolutely could have been prevented if smokers realize they shouldn't stop.

Over four hundred thousand Americans alone die each year due to cigarette related deaths. These annual deaths rack up more than AIDS, illegal drugs, murders, suicides, alcohol, and car wrecks combined. If people didn't smoke, these death tolls in not just the United States, but the whole world would go down. That seems like a pretty good incentive, no?

People should not smoke cigarettes.


As noted prior, I concede Pro's personal health arguments (e.g., increased risk of lung cancer, nicotine problems).

The Normative Contingency Thesis

All value systems are predicated necessarily on some fundamental value. In the general domain of logic--including the domain itself--particular systems are established by assuming at least one axiomatic statement, e.g., "Human life is a primary value", or "A is A". In any case in which something is asserted as axiomatic, one cannot argue, from within the system whose origin is that axiom, about the truth-value of that axiom, given that the originary function of that axiom is to permit the development of a system of deductions. To argue about the proposition "human life is valuable" in a system whose fundamental axiom is such is much like arguing over the logical status of "A is A" (one cannot argue against it, since one must assume it to be true to employ deduction). In other words: one cannot treat the axiom(s) of a given deductive system as a conclusion derived within that system. This explains how two individuals can be "logical" while at the same time reaching divergent conclusions: supposing I take "God exists" as axiomatic, I might reach different normative conclusions than someone who takes secular epistemic standards as axiomatic (since these kinds of standards are almost certain to produce athestic or otherwise skeptical belief-commitments). To adjudicate between two or more possible axioms, one may widen the circle by appealing to a larger external system; however, this system is itself subject to the criterion of agreement over axioms, lending the question of contingency a decisively Gödelian tone.

Formulating more clearly the normative contingency thesis: all systems of ethics rely necessarily on an agreement (between the participants in discourse) over the axiom whose assumption permits valid normative deductions. The corollary to this, which is critical to the following stage of my argument, is: for any two participants in discourse, failure to agree on an axiom precludes the possibility of meaningful discourse between those participants.

In what manner does this thesis bear on our debate, then? Extrapolating from the criteria for meaningful discourse, it seems as though the only requirement for my victory is a refusal on my (or anyone else's) part to accept Pro's axiom claim. This is precisely my intention. When I assert, however, that it is "not logical" to prefer Pro's implicit axiom, which seems to be something like "Maximizing longevity is a primary value" (or, yet more generally, "One's own life is most valuable"), it is not to say that it is internally contradictory, or that it violates some rule of deduction; rather, I mean to say that there is nothing in the wider system of logic, in which Pro's axiom claim is situated, which implies that maximization of longevity is a necessarily true proposition. While it is difficult to contest the notion of identity (i.e., "A is A") without making communication impossible, I suspect Pro and I do not agree entirely that maximization of longevity should be a similar axiom, much less that a normative impetus to such could be deduced from any axiom to which I would agree.

In economics, the concept of tradeoffs/opportunity costs indicates that, in any case where an agent makes some choice X, that choice necessary gives up all other possible opportunities Y, Y', Y', etc. While we might think "The decision to smoke is irrational because it shortens life/is unhealthy", there really is not some objective way of arbitrating the dispute between smoking and the opportunity costs one incurs in pursuing recreation in that way. In other words: one cannot claim that smoking is "irrational" without an implicit, axiomatic claim to value from which such conclusion could be deduced.

One could, of course, propose all sorts of objections. One could say, for instance, that a smoker really is making suboptimal decisions, citing nicotine addiction, increased stress, risk of cancer, etc. Pro seems somewhat to have adopted this route; however, the reply is always the same: one cannot indict some choice framework in terms of some different choice framework, since the fundamental quibble merely reduces to "This axiom is better than that one", a claim which is itself contained in an axiomatic system external to the framework being advanced.

Another objection, which I think is stronger, is that the smoker himself may prefer a world in which he has quit to one in which he has not. The reply here is twofold: first, this is primarily an inductive claim which could be formulated as: "Since many smokers would probably regret smoking X years down the line, individuals ought not smoke." Intuitively, we may, given that this argument relies on the smoker's own choice framework, be inclined to agree; however, this argument seems to ignore outliers and counterexamples. The proper argument, I think, would be, "For any smoker who would regret smoking X years down the line, the same individual(s) ought not smoke." This seems to hold--somewhat, at least--for individual cases; it does not, however, hold as a universal normative principle. Nevertheless, even this claim runs into my second objection, that there are serious bounding issues. What are the boundaries, for instance, on the number of years (signified by X) before or after which a smoker must feel a general sense of regret to justify the individuated normative claim that he/she should not smoke? Further, supposing that a subject's regret is offset some by the desire to keep smoking, how do we draw boundaries on how much regret is required before the normative claim applies? If we try to make statistical, "51%" kinds of arguments, how do we quantify inherently qualititative experiences, e.g., regret vs. craving (not to mention the marginalized or excluded emotions which are likely to play a causal role in a subject's final decision).

One other interesting bounding issue comes up when considering the arguments about damage to a smoker’s surroundings in the form of fires and (presumably) secondhand smoke. There seems not to be a method of determining the extent to which one ought to refrain from some action in light of its potential negative repercussions. The drawing of a threshold between someone smoking cigarettes and operating a vehicle seems, therefore, somewhat arbitrary. Surely, if individuals stopped driving cars, the quantity of car accidents (i.e., deaths) would decrease; yet, I suspect that Pro is unwilling to concede to juridical or ethical prohibitions on driving. This makes it difficult to articulate precisely the point at which it becomes impermissible to perform an action. Questions such as “How many deaths are permissible?”, “How high does the risk of an accident have to be?”, etc., spring immediately to mind. Even supposing that the bounding issue is solved, however, I may still recourse to normative contingency and the universality problem:

On the one hand, supposing that we agree to an axiom like “one ought never harm other individuals”—which seems to underlie Pro’s claims about interpersonal safety—moral imperatives such as “Smokers ought to be more careful” or “Smokers ought only to smoke in designated areas” are the best arguments Pro will have to work with, particularly given the very technical sorts of solutions which would be required to solve the bounding issue without concluding that any potential hazard to others’ safety ought to be banned.

On the other hand, given that not all smokers are guilty of starting fires, killing others with secondhand smoke, etc., it seems as though there are at least some cases in which Pro’s factual claims are inapplicable, which implies further that the moral prohibition on smoking, insofar as it is predicated on interpersonal safety concerns, cannot be extended to individuals to whom these concerns do not apply.

Debate Round No. 2


Furthering and maintaining one's life may not be the intention of everyone, but it can be said that humans are alive to live. To purposely indulge in habits that would refrain one from being able to do so would go against what could be the intention of our existence. Though we are not required to live, while we are alive it's important, though not required, to take part in actions that will allow us to do just that. Smoking cigarettes prevents smokers from being able to partake in what one may call a human duty. Though no duty is required, it is certainly present.

A rational, though sometimes selfish, decision can often be thought of as one that protects or ensures a person's longevity, If a person has the intention of staying alive, and while doing so staying healthy, it certainly is irrational for them to partake in smoking.

A person should not smoke because when they do they are purposely shortening the span of their life, our lives being the only thing in this world that each of us have. By evidence to Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative, one must will the maxim that can be made universal law. The smoking of cigarettes doesn't fall into this law. Yes, it may be deemed appropriate for a forty-five year old man to smoke a cigarette, but could the same be said of a three year old? There are already restrictions on the smoking of cigarettes (i.e., age restrictions, parameters in which smoking can be done, what actually goes into a cigarette). Smoking cigarettes cannot be made into universal law. It can not be said that in every circumstance there can ever be, a person should be able to smoke. Because of this, one should not smoke cigarettes because the action doesn't pass the categorical imperative set up by Immanuel Kant.

By the same vein, another version of the categorical imperative states that one should treat others as ends, not simply means to an end. By smoking cigarettes, smokers treat their own bodies as means to an end. Smokers do not value the intrinsic good their bodies have, but instead soil and pollute it (as well as the environment and other humans). By doing so, smoking cigarettes fails to meet the standards of this version of the categorical imperative.

Whether a smoker regrets their decision to smoke or not (often they don't) and whether or not they decide to quit is, indeed, a matter of personal framework. However, one can fall in and not regret their decision to smoke. In fact, many continue to do so until their bodies eventually give in to death. But because it is smoking that could cause their death, it's vital that smokers don't smoke.

I do agree that if less people drove there would be fewer deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents. However, driving is more of a human necessity than smoking. Driving is, too, very dangerous – but there are in fact rewards to driving, while smoking provides virtually none. Though the risk and reward factor for driving still may not balance out, the margin would still be more appealing than that of smoking cigarettes.

Even smoking in designated areas is dangerous, particularly to oneself. If people keep smoking, people will keep dying smoking related deaths.

It is true that not all smokers suffer the same fate, but because they often do, one should not take the chance and simply not smoke.


1. Pro’s reply to the contingency problem produces what I regard as a fatal antinomy between two claims: on the one hand, Pro must always maintain that there exists a universal, absolute moral obligation to refrain from smoking; otherwise, Pro must concede that the proposition “People should not smoke cigarettes” is false. On the other hand, much of Pro’s language seems to concede to the normative contingency thesis. Says Pro:

“[I]t can be said that humans are alive to live. To purposely indulge in habits that would refrain one from being able to do so would go against what could be the intention of our existence. Though we are not required to live, while we are alive it’s important, though not required to take part in actions that will allow us to do just that. Smoking cigarettes prevents smokers from being able to partake in what one may call a human duty. Though no duty is required, it is certainly present.”

I do agree that smoking is detrimental to one’s health, and that some individuals might regard it as important—even as a duty—that one do whatever is in one’s power to maximize longevity; however, the central argument of the normative contingency thesis is that normative claims only find meaning if they are deduced from a mutually-agreeable axiom. Given that a) I do not agree to the longevity axiom, and b) Pro agrees that many others are likely to disagree, one must conclude that statements such as “it is important [to maximize longevity”, “one may call [maximizing longevity/not smoking] a human duty”, etc. are contingent on an axiom of which non-acceptance invalidates derivative conclusions. Pro’s assertion that “If a person has the intention of staying alive, and while doing so staying healthy, it certainly is irrational for them to partake in smoking” captures perfectly the kind of conditionality that characterizes normative contingency. A similar story plays out for statements like “It is true that not all smokers suffer the same fate”, “However, one can fall in and not regret their decision to smoke”, “Whether a smoker regrets their decision to smoke… and whether or not they decide to quit is, indeed, a matter of personal framework”. In particular, the problem of universality is applicable here.

2. Pro cannot presuppose that the categorical imperative is a legitimate moral principle. To the extent that universality is a useful criterion, however, our agreement that the disadvantages and interpersonal hazards of smoking are extremely conditional precludes Pro from affirming as a general principle that people ought not to smoke (given that the premises on which he predicates his affirmation cannot be extended to all smokers).

In short:

1. Pro has not addressed the fundamental contention, in this context, of the normative contingency thesis, which is that the longevity axiom on which his deductions are predicated cannot be presupposed in a discourse where the other party/parties do not agree. Further, that Pro is willing to concede that his axiom is not morally necessary suggests that he must implicitly concede to normative contingency.

2. Pro is unable to presuppose Kantian Ethics; however, insofar as any variety of universality criterion is applicable, the premises on which his argument is advanced do not extend to all smokers, which relegates his conclusion to the same fate.

Debate Round No. 3


It's true that not all people may regard the risks as smoking as vital to their understanding, or even care about the risks. But because those risks are present, it's imperative that one not take a risk that knowingly is purposely fatal to their health.

When debating topics such as these it's important to universalize. Yes, everyone is different, but when debating what could be considered an ethical or moral dilemma, one must take into account everyone, not just one person or themselves.

The categorical imperative is certainly not a universally accepted set of moral or legal standards. However, I feel it important to discuss a matter such as cigarette smoking through the eyes of an imperative that prides itself of attempting to create maxims that will be accepted by everyone as a maxim that should be willed.

Even according to Samuel Pufendorf, humans are created with duties: two of these duties being duties toward others and duties toward oneself. Smoking cigarettes violates both of these duties.

According to Pufendorf, we have a duty toward others. Smoking near someone and subjecting them to second hand smoke is almost as dangerous as smoking a cigarette itself. About thirty four hundred non smoking adults die of lung cancer as a result of breathing in second hand smoke. This in turn violates Pufendorf's notion of duty toward others. In a sense, one can be guilty of taking another's life if that person dies from second hand smoke of their cigarette. Knowing this, one should not smoke cigarettes.

Also enforced by Pufendorf are the duties toward oneself. He explicitly even says "No person could give himself live…it seems that man by no means vested with such a power over his own life as that he may put an end to it when he pleases." Smoking cigarettes can be likened to committing suicide because A. One knows that smoking can cause lung cancer and other fatal diseases, which in return causes B. Death. By one willingly smoking cigarettes, they willingly defy duties to themselves, for they are in a sense killing themselves. It may be a slow death, but the eventual painful death will be committed by their own volition.

Again, I'm not suggesting that Pufendorf's notion of duties be considered universal moral or legal law, but instead a reference as to how smoking is not an action a person should partake in.


My fundamental contention over the course of this debate has been that all normative statements are inherently predicated on some kind of meta-level framework. Employing the normative contingency thesis, the conclusion we are thereby able to draw is that anyone who does not agree to the fundamental axioms governing a particular normative system is not bound by its deductions. In this context, Pro's opening statement in this last round is another testament to the truth of the normative contingency thesis: "It's true that not all people may regard the risks [of] smoking as vital to their understanding, or even care about the risks." Insofar as Pro concedes to this being the case, we can conclude, invoking normative contingency, that not all smokers can be properly evaluated by the implicit longevity framework advanced by Pro.

The same story holds for the categorical imperative. The fundamental structure of Kantian Ethics relies on the notion that one ought not make exceptions for oneself with respect to moral rules (e.g., because one would never desire a world in which all individuals were liars, one ought not oneself lie). While we might be intuitively drawn to this kind of view, the same issue of normative contingency applies in terms of the standards by which we are encouraged to judge maxims (e.g. universality, supposition of the inclusion of oneself in the kingdom of ends). While we might inclined to say something like, "Well, that just seems fair", this intuitive appeal--which is reliant on the axioms whose objective bindingness we are questioning--is insufficient.

Moreover, the same story applies to Pufendorf. While, on the one hand, Pufendorf is a respected philosopher, the mere fact of a man with philosophical credentials claiming one thing or other is insufficient to determine the truth-value of that particular something-or-other. If Pro were to advance this conclusion as a self-evident proposition, we would surely be inclined to question why we ought to believe that such is the case; regardless of the speaker, I suspect we would be right to conclude that a proposition asserted merely in its own right (that is, as a bare proposition) does not seem worthy of our ethico-epistemic commitment.

That Pro has conceded, in each case in which some or other ethical theory is cited, that his moral claims cannot "be considered universal moral or legal law" demonstrates already that the notion all people "should" do anything is illegitimate. Even the prudential sense of the word "should", to which Pro seems to take final recourse, rests on a similar kind of framework to which normative contingency may be applied.
Debate Round No. 4


not all smokers can be properly evaluated by the implicit longevity framework
I concede, but as argument sake goes, the universality of smokers was my target and I hold all smokers to the same standard.

The categorical imperative is simply one standard smokers could be held to - an example, if you will. Though it can not be enforced, I felt imperative to mention different ideals in which smoking would be found prohibited.

It's Pufendorf is a respected philosopher, and I was again invoking his beliefs to offer another point of view that would find smoking an action one should not partake in.

I would define "should" as "to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions". In which case, I stand by Pufendorf's ideals of the duties onto oneself and others.

Smoking is a filthy habit, as most smokers are aware. There are no benefits to the act. All smoking does is shed years off one's life and diminish their health. Lung and skin cancer are products of the hobby. Teeth yellowing and decay too are a result of the habit.

If one's goal in life is to live as long as possible and as healthily as possible, it's imperative they do not smoke.
If one lives with the goal not to inflict someone else with death or health problems (i.e., second hand smoke), it is imperative they do not smoke.
If a minor who is under the legal age of smoking wishes to obey the law, it's imperative they neither buy nor smoke cigarettes.
If a person wishes to live life without poisoning their body, it's crucial they do not smoke cigarettes.

Smoking is a known cause of health problems and death. Because we are put on this earth to live, people should not smoke. The rewards of smoking to not live up to any of the risks.

Smoking is a filthy, deadly habit and should not be done.

Thank you for accepting this debate, I look forward to your concluding arguments.


There is not, I suspect, much work left to be done. At this stage of our discourse, my colleague has conceded to the most important of my arguments. Apart from the skeletal structure of the normative contingency thesis, Pro has conceded also the ground-level application of this thesis in her agreement that A) her arguments do not actually apply to all smokers (though she claims to hold each to the same standard); B) the categorical imperative is not objectively ethically binding; C) one cannot be expected to subscribe to some or other moral framework on the mere basis of the author on whose behalf (i.e., Pufendorf) said framework is being advanced. That Pro, in the end, defines "should" in moral terms (e.g., "obligation, duty, or correctness") demonstrates just how useful the normative contingency thesis is in making meta-level statements about the axioms upon which deductive moral frameworks, i.e., all moral frameworks, are constructed.

Sure, we might say that smoking is "filthy". The epidemiological evidence is perfectly sound, and this I have not questioned for the duration. And yet, that Pro's normative claims are each constructed as a conditional--if, if, if, if--demonstrates, yet again, the way in which contingency may be applied, not only in the manner of tracing deductions to their axioms, but also to demonstrate the contingency of the axioms themselves.

I believe that I have done all I can do in this debate without becoming redundant (a threshold which I fear I have perhaps already crossed). And so, I raise my glass to you all.


Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by FREEDO 4 years ago
If I were were Pro I would have argued that either:
A) This was posted in the health section and thus implied health as a standard for "shouldn't".
or, if allowing this to turn into a philosophical debate,
B) That "People shouldn't smoke cigarettes" is not a statement which must apply to all people, as Con claimed, or else it would have specified saying "all" people. Rather, that there are people to whom it may apply. Which Con actually conceded.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Grape 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro never had any reply whatsoever to the normative contingency argument. In fact, there was never really any evidence throughout the debate that Pro understood her own arguments, let alone Con's. The Categorical Imperative was poorly explained, and after Con was forced to explain why that argument wouldn't work if the NCT was conceded, Pro went around and advanced another arbitrary ethical framework that could also just be summarily rejected.
Vote Placed by Travniki 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I gave this to Con for a few reasons. He immeadiatly conceded cigarettes are unhealthy and built his case getting around that, a fact that weakened pros side. This debate really came down to, can you hold morals to be universal? Pro almost had me with Pufendorf, and con seemed to start arguing in circles, but at closer examination I found that both sides did that in this complex debate. After I finished I stepped back, cleared my head, and realized Con convinced me that we cant univeralize m