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Should the US Government Ban Smoking?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/5/2016 Category: Health
Updated: 2 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 205 times Debate No: 94478
Debate Rounds (3)
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The government should not put a ban on smoking. Although smoking is dangerous to both the smoker and those around them, there are other ways to deter this action, as well as protect others, without limiting the rights of citizens. While I admit that the right to smoke is not an enumerated right, one can assume that it would be under the 8th amendment, which protects the non-enumerated rights of citizens. Rather than ban smoking for all, there should simply be more regulations about where people can smoke. Perhaps banning smoking in all public places, and requiring smokers to be, for example, 500 feet from all entrances of a building. This would reduce the amount of people expose to second hand smoke.

I acknowledge how dangerous smoking is for the people. But the government's job is not to protect the people from themselves- just from others.


I accept and in my understanding, we are talking about CIGARETTE smoking. Regarding the "rights" of citizen to smoke cigarette, we should only allow rights that will benefit the health of the society and the environment. Also we both agree in banning cigarette smoking in public places as to reduce secondhand smoking. Therefore I am not going to address secondhand smoking in my points. In this round, I will not refute your points but introduce my points. It is in the next round in which I will refute your points.

Here are my points:

I. Deadly Components of Cigarettes

What is a cigarette made of?

- Tobacco (the main ingredient) which has more than 7000 toxic chemical components and more than 69 are carcinogens (1).

Here are the familiar chemicals that are found in tobacco (2):

- Carbon Monoxide (found in car exhaust)
- Nicotine (found in bug sprays)
- Tar (found in material to make roads)
- Arsenic (found in rat poison)
- Ammonia (found in cleaning products)
- Hydrogen Cyanide (found in gas chamber poison)
- Cyanide (found in deadly poison)
- Acetone (found in nail polish remover)
- Butane (found in cigarette lighter fluid)
- DDT (found in insecticides)
- Formaldehyde (used in preserving dead bodies)
- Sulfuric Acid (found in car batteries)
- Cadmium (used in recharging car batteries)
- Freon (damages earth's ozone layer)
- Geranic Acid (a fragrance)
- Methoprene (a pesticide)
- Maltitol (a sweetener not permitted to be used in foods in the US) (2)

Remember, the list I provided has not included many of the chemicals found in tobacco. In other words, a smoker is smoking an item that has "DEATH" written on it. Why should we keep selling a deadly item that has components that can damage the human body? For example, inhaling ammonia can cause poisoning but ammonia is found in tobacco. Highly addictive nicotine is very lethal as it is twice as deadly as a black widow spider venom (3) but like ammonia, nicotine is still found in tobacco.

II. Casualties of Smoking

Tobacco is the "single greatest preventable cause of death" (4). It is responsible for the 5.4 million deaths around the world each year. By 2030, the number of deaths will increase to more than 8 million. Smoking has more deaths than these four causes of death combined: HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, firearm-related incidents (4).

But let's focus on America as the topic is focused on. According to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 480,000 deaths in America each year. That is one in every five deaths (5). It is baffling that more than 10 times as many US citizens died prematurely caused by smoking than the number of Americans that died in all of the wars fought (5). The chance of dying even has increased in the last 50 years for all men and women in America (5).

Here are the general (not only America) devastating causes of cigarette smoking, according to the article (5):

- 90% of lung cancers and the more number of women who die annually from lung cancer than breast cancer
- More than 80% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- It increases the risk of death for men and women
- Increased risk of coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
- Increased risk of stroke by 2 to 3 times
- Increased risk of lung cancer for men by 25 times
- Increased risk of lung cancer for women by 25.7 times
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease
- Greater risk of respiratory disease

Here are the cancers that are caused by smoking, according to the same article (5):

- Bladder
- Acute myeloid lukemia
- Cervix
- Colorectal
- Esophagus
- Kidney and ureter
- Larynx
- Liver
- Oropharynx (parts of tonsils, tongue, throat, soft palate)
- Pancreas
- Stomach
- Trachea, Bronchus and lung

Cigarette smoking will increase the risk of death in cancer patients and survivors. If nobody smoked, one in every three cancer deaths in the United States would not happen (5). There are so many consequences of cigarette smoking that I don't anyone is sane enough to still let millions or possibly billions of people to access them.

III. Less Spending

What the individual saves:

According to this research, quitting smoking can save a lot of money and time (6). By not smoking, let's say one pack a day, you can save about $5.71 on one day. In a year of not smoking a pack, you can save $2084.15. In five years, you can save $10,420.75, excluding taxes. Also by not smoking a pack of cigarettes, you can save 2 hours in one day, 720 hours in one year and 3600 hours in five years. 3600 hours equal to 150 days and with that number of days and hours, you could have used them for something much more meaningful. If cigarettes are banned, the insurance company will not charge smokers with higher rates. Smokers pay four times higher than non-smokers in insurance (7).

What the government saves:

It is true that tobacco companies spend billions in advertisements and production and that the government suffers in medical expenses and lost productivity (8). Smoking-related illnesses cost more than $300 billion in medical care (about $170 billion) and lost productivity (about $156 billion) (8).

IV. Greener planet

Researchers have found that there are about 1.7 billion pounds of cigarette butts in lakes, oceans, on beaches and across the planet every year (9). In total, there are about 4.3 trillion cigarette butts globally. According to this article, throwing a cigarette butt with a trace of tobacco in it in the water alone can turn the water yellowish brown. It can also be responsible for killing 50% of fish living in it (10). Land, aerial and aquatic animals are suffering from the littering of cigarettes. The helpless fish, for example, have swallowed cigarette butts or breathed the poison through their gills. Bunnies, dogs, cats, seagulls are also victims. Not only it is slowly destroying the animal population but it could also make our food poisonous. If fishermen caught an already dead fish killed by a cigarette butt along with other freshly caught fish, it can be bought by a consumer from a fish market who will likely suffer from eating the poisoned fish.

Not only that but using a lighter can impose a fire hazard. Loss of homes from fires due to smoking cost about half a billion per year and $3 billion for tobacco-related cleaning and maintenance (9). There are also number of lives claimed by the tragic fire and the cost of injury treatments too. Not to mention the number of wildfires caused by smoking and the quality of air seriously affected by the activity.

Tobacco spits from a tobacco chewer can also spread the residue. If it is done in an interior, it can spread on the chewer's shirt, furniture, car's upholstery, etc. (9). If outside, it can spread in the garden, park, sidewalk, etc (9). Wherever the spitter is, the residue will be there also (9).

In other words, banning cigarettes can help physically, mentally, economically and environmentally. Banning it can get rid of many carcinogens and diseases that are revolving around the world, get rid of financial crisis and preserve the environment.

Thanks for letting me debate. I am awaiting your response.


Debate Round No. 1


I appreciate that you have taken the time to accept my challenge. In this round I will counter some or all of your points to the best of my ability. In the next round I will make a closing statement.

I. Why should the government be in charge of people's bodies?

It is most certainly true that cigarettes are deadly- it's the reason I don't smoke, and it's the reason no one around me smokes. However, that doesn't mean that we should place a ban on it. It is not the government's job to intervene on things that can hurt peoples lives. Alcohol causes cirrhosis and various other health complications, but we do not ban it! It is the job of the individual to make sure that they live healthy lives.

II. The amount that individuals spend can prove helpful to the economy.

The tobacco industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and although it is responsible for millions of deaths, has made tens of billions of dollars in profits each year. Combine profits of the 6 leading companies reached $35.1 billion dollars in 2010 (1). This is about equal to the combine profits of McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and Microsoft. In addition, an agricultural economic report from the year 2000 cites that the tobacco industry provided around 1.8-3.1 million jobs supported by the industry, including around 90,000 farms (2). These numbers have likely grown since then. By putting a ban on tobacco, those millions of people would be instantly unemployed.

In addition, while approximately $170 billion is spent on health care related to tobacco each year (about 60%, or $102 billion is spent by government provided insurance) (3), approximately $1.8 billion dollars is made in revenue from tax on tobacco sales (4). This does not include corporate taxes, capital gains tax, or income taxes generated from the tobacco industry. While admittedly it is unlikely that this is anywhere near the amount spent, there is no doubt that it is, in fact, a lot of money- all of which would be lost the moment we ban tobacco. In addition, government spending on unemployment will increase tremendously until all those people put out of a job find new ones.

III. There are other way to keep the planet safe

I can not deny that littering related to smoking is an atrocity, and no doubt needs to be fixed. Without a doubt it is a problem. However, there are more ways to approach this than a ban on smoking. For example, heftier fines on tobacco related littering would not only deter people from throwing butts on the ground, but would also generate revenue for cities. Banning smoking should be a last resort at best.

IV. Banning smoking will be ineffective

Let's look at what happened when the US banned alcohol. It wasn't pretty. People were extremely unhappy about the fact that their beloved liquor had been taken off the shelves all across the US, and so they started to make their own alcohol. This gave birth to many problems- the worst of which is organized crime, which is still around to this day. Eventually, congress had to pass an amendment to counter the one that prohibited alcohol in the first place.

Now if you think that won't happen with tobacco, let's consider the fact that tobacco is an addictive substance. While there certainly are a few alcoholics out there who can't go a day without a few drinks, almost everyone who buys tobacco is addicted to the nicotine. If people are cut off from something they're addicted to, they almost always find a new way to get it- that's why the illegal trade of prescription narcotics and heroin is such a big problem. And given the fact that tobacco is much easier to access than opiates (and thus has a higher amount of addicts), it's bound to be traded illegally. This means a number of things economically.

1. The cost to the consumer will increase once cigarettes become illegal, thus slightly harder to get.

2. Medical costs regarding tobacco related illness are unlikely to stop. The most it will do is lower a bit.

3. Depending on how punishment related to tobacco use is punished, the government will spend more on imprisonment of users and dealers.

4. The government will get no revenue from the control of commerce.

5. Damage to the environment will unlikely become any better, as people will not be able to place their cigarette buts in public ash trays.

Thus, it is my belief that a ban on smoking is far more harmful than if smoking were to continue to be legal.


(1) (I know, this is an anti-smoking source. But it's the only place I could find recent information on the industry's value.)


Thanks for the response. I am going to refute your first round points and I will defend my points in the last round as well as provide my closing statements.

My opponent mentioned about smoking cigarettes as an unenumerated right protected by the Eight Amendment in which the government can't interfere. First, he is right that it is protected, not by the Eight but the Ninth Amendment. Second, this also means that Americans have the right to have access to cocaine but with its fatality and addictive component, should we allow that too? No, of course not.

My opponent said that we should ban smoking in all public places. He forgot that millions of Americans do not spend all of their time indoors. A person who has seen smoking as a hobby will not wait 8 hours to get home and smoke everyday. He also said that we should reduce secondhand smoking but what if a person who likes to smoke want to have a formal gathering in which he will invite many people? The invitees will become secondhand smokers as a result.

He also suggested that people should smoke 500 feet away from all entrances of a building. I don't think it is going to help anyone as those around would still become secondhand smokers.

My opponent said that the "government's job is not to protect the people from themselves- just from others". Oh, so he is saying that people have the right to have access to an item that yells DEATH SENTENCE but expect the government and those around the smoker to clean up the mess?

I will be awaiting your rebuttals. Thank you and good night.
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