Smoking cigarettes and tobacco has a range of negative effects on society.
However, there are ways to decrease the prevalence of smoking.
In this guide, we’ve quickly outlined what some of those ways might be.
Summary – Preventing and Reducing Smoking
Positively, current smoking trends show that smoking prevalence (the % of people smoking) has decreased over the last few decades, in a country like the US
But, what we also see is that people who could be classed as vulnerable, such as those with mental disorders and addiction problems, and those who live rurally, may smoke at higher rates than the average
Overall, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in countries like the US and the UK
Secondhand exposure to smoke for non smokers can also be a problem
Population-based tobacco control policies, increasing taxes, and restricting tobacco industry promotion of cigarettes all can help reduce smoking and raise government revenue
There’s also options such as e-cigarettes and vaping devices (amongst other alternatives) that some smokers are turning to to help wean themselves off cigarettes and tobacco. Although the health impacts of those alternatives might be debatable
Challenges to reducing smoking can include lobbying, legal challenges, and campaigns to manufacture doubt about the health risks of smoking and the need for tobacco control policies
Something else that might be considered with smoking is the real impact the tobacco and cigarette income, taxes, and job creation (in agriculture, manufacture, and so on) has on the economy and society. When considering the environmental, animal and social factors as well, is smoking a net good or net drawback for society? The answer could depend on the country (as some countries may grow more tobacco, or, receive more government income tax from smoking related industries). These things have to be weighed up against littering of cigarette butts, burden on the health care system, secondhand smoke exposure to friends, family, strangers and pets, individual satisfaction and productivity of the individual, and so on.
Some say smoking is clearly a net drawback, especially when considering that resources could be directed else where in society, whilst others say the negative impact of smoking may be so small that it’s insignificant, or that smoking could even be a net positive to society in some ways.
Firstly, What Are The Impacts Of Smoking?
You can read more about the full impact of smoking on different sectors of society in these guides:
Secondly, What Are The Current Prevalence Rates/Trends Of Smoking?
According to drugabuse.gov, in the US:
- Approximately one fourth of the population uses tobacco products, and 19.4 percent smoke cigarettes
- Smoking rates continue to go down year to year; the percentage of people over age 18 who smoke cigarettes declined from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2016
- However, smoking rates are substantially higher among some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The 25 percent of Americans with mental disorders, including addiction, account for 40 percent of the cigarettes smoked in the U.S.
- More than 40 percent of people with a General Education Development certificate (GED) smoke
- People who live in rural areas, particularly in the South Atlantic states, use all forms of tobacco at higher rates than people who live in urban areas
- Smoking among youth is also at historically low levels
- … the prevalence [of smoking] has declined substantially since the first US Surgeon General’s report (from 43% in 1965 to 18% today), but it remains a leading cause of preventable death in the United States, where it is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year, including nearly 42,000 deaths from secondhand smoke exposure.
What Are Some Ways To Reduce The Prevalence Of Smoking?
Read more on reducing smoking prevalence and saving healthcare dollars at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4862676/
There are also alternatives to cigarettes such as e-cigarettes and vaping devices (amongst other alternatives) that some smokers are turning to to help wean themselves off cigarettes and tobacco.
What Are Some Of The Positive Side Effects Of Decreasing Smoking Rates?
As just one financial related example…
- … a 10% relative reduction in smoking prevalence between a state and the national average in one year was followed by an average $6.3 billion reduction (in 2012 dollars) in health care expenditure the following year
- Consistent with this finding, the states with the most rigorous tobacco control policies had a much lower smoking prevalence and lower health care expenditures than states that did not have these policies.
Other potential positive side effects include an almost immediate reduction of risk of of short term and long term health diseases to individuals and passive smokers, and a much lower environmental impact (particularly on air pollution and land clearing due to tobacco growing)
Potential Challenges To Smoking Reduction Strategies
- The challenge for tobacco control advocates has been to persuade governments to enact … policies in the face of tobacco industry lobbying, legal challenges, and campaigns to manufacture doubt about the health risks of smoking and the need for tobacco control policies.
But, quitting or reducing smoking can be a challenge unique to the individual as well as governments and society as a whole. You’re dealing with what is in some cases an addiction, and also a multi layered issue at the government, business and personal/social level.
It’s also worth noting that just as smoking can be an addiction that leads to health complications, overeating can be an addiction that leads to health complications like heart disease. It becomes a real question – is it morally wrong to focus on one over the other?