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Should Cigarettes be Illegal? Research Paper


Numerous allegations have been put forward against tobacco in bid to make United States of America’s government declare cigarette smoking illegal. Research has shown that one in every ten adults die out of tobacco related illness. In fact, there has been argument that the only preventable deaths are those caused by tobacco. In addition, it has been found that tobacco contributes to poverty intensification.

For cigarette smokers, about 10% of their income goes to cigarette. This leaves them with less to spend on things such as education, food and health care. Consequently, tobacco is blamed for contributing to the level of illiteracy in United States.

With most of cultivable land being used for tobacco growth, it is evident that tobacco contributes to reduction in food commodities in United States. Land currently being used for tobacco ought to be used for planting maize and other food crops (Lovato, Linn, Stead & Best pp. 115-118).

Another negative impact of tobacco is environmental pollution from cigarette smoke and butts. With tobacco being blamed for these adversaries, one wonders why the government is unwilling to declare cigarette smoking illegal. There are many economic benefits associated with tobacco and declaring cigarettes smoking illegal would render the nation incapacitated economically.

Cigarette smoking ought not to be declared illegal. In its place, the government needs to come up with measures to regulate cigarette smoking so as to cater for the young generation which being affected by cigarette smoking at an alarming late.

Why government can not illegalize cigarettes

Illegalizing tobacco in America would lead to the country’s economy being greatly affected. Tobacco industry is a major contributor to the country’s economy with the industry offering jobs to tens of thousands of the Americans. In 1993, nearly 43,000 Americans were working in tobacco related companies. In the same year, federal, state and local governments gotten 15 billion dollars as tax collected from tobacco industry.

In 1995, Price Waterhouse Coppers carried out an analysis that indicated that 51.5 billion dollars of the total Gross National Production came from tobacco industry (Bearman 31). Besides, over 681,353 of the Americans were working in tobacco industry. These huge economic benefits of the industry underline the reasons why the government is not willing to declare cigarette smoking illegal.

The fact that tobacco industry greatly influences politics of different states in United States is a sufficient reason why cigarette smoking is here to stay. In most cases, the government gets its campaign funds from the industry. For that reason, those in the government would not like to oppose the industry’s activities as it would appear like biting the hand that fed them.

With approximately 45 million Americans smoking, illegalizing cigarettes would ruin government’s reputation (Bearman pp. 45-53). This implies that the respective government would be risking loosing its political power in the country. Consequently, the government always acts with a lot of caution when it comes to matters affecting tobacco industry.

Influence of tobacco industry in America

For decades, tobacco industry in America has worked hard to shoot down all programs aimed at controlling its operations. Whenever a law controlling activities of the tobacco industry is established, the industry quickly mobilizes it lawyers, advertisers, public relations personnel and lobbyists to come up with measures to counter it.

In addition, the industry works hard to repeal any tobacco control measures that are introduced in the country. A good example is when voters in California unanimously passed Proposition 99. Tobacco industry countered the move by heavily funding Californian legislators (Glantz & Balbach 65).

This led to Governor Pete blocking anti-smoking advertisements that were being funded through tax money. The government stopped funding the advertisements. By funding legislators, the industry managed to influence them to vote for suspension of ban on smoking in bars. The state legislature became friendly to tobacco.

Apart from seeking support from legislators, tobacco industry used superior marketing strategies to change public opinion. Afterwards, the industry proposed its way of controlling tobacco use in the state duped Proposition 188. The industry disguised its proposal as a pro-health measure that would ensure that children do not have access to cigarettes.

However, the proposal was aimed at weakening existing state’s tobacco control measures and making it hard for any city or town to pass anti-tobacco regulations. Luckily enough, voters realized that the proposal was supported by tobacco industry before they voted it in and it was rejected (Glantz & Balbach 73).

In Massachusetts, tobacco industry tried to bribe state legislature to drop a ballot initiative that led to increment of cigarette tax. The industry used more that half a million dollars in trying to ensure that legislators allowed it to continue advertising its products.

In addition, the industry lowered prices of its products to attract more customers. Moreover, the industry came up with false allegations that cigarettes were being smuggled to black markets (Saloojee & Dagli pp. 902-910). To clear its image in the public, the industry funded numerous projects through concealed alliances with health, education and other public interest organizations.

The above cases are just few examples of how tobacco industry has been able to render laws aimed at regulating its products use ineffective. The six tobacco companies in America are influential such that they have been able to counter all health reports and laws aimed at restricting smoking. The companies continue enjoying big profits and are currently buying other non-tobacco companies as an expansion strategy.

Young generation and cigarette smoking

Rarely have researchers conducted a survey on children below twelve years regarding their exposure to smoking. A survey carried out in Washington State shown that 30% of children aged ten and eleven years that were interviewed agreed to have ever tried smoking. To look at it in a different perspective, every day over 3500 children under the age of 18 years try smoking for their first time.

In addition, more than 1000 adolescents are becoming addicted daily. 90% of cigarette smokers have confessed that they got addicted when they were barely 18 years old (Gostin, Arno & Brandt pp. 410-115). There are instances when children smokers have tried to quit. However, research indicates that three out four who attempt to quit smoking fail.

Various reasons have been cited to contribute to children getting addicted to cigarette smoking at an early age. Parents have been found to neglect their responsibilities and they smoke in presence of their children. Accordingly, kids find it awesome and they decide to try it out of curiosity.

There are parents who send their children to buy cigarettes for them or even leaves cigarette on places where children can easily access them thus making them tempted to smoke. Peer influence is another factor that has led to children smoking at an early age.

At adolescent, children tend to copy their friends without knowing the repercussions so as to be part of the group or to be accepted by their peers (Gostin, Arno & Brandt p. 416). If a child happens to be in company of smokers, he or she gets influenced by others thus indulging in smoking.

Media has not been left behind in contributing to this predicament. Some of the children who get involved in smoking claim to have first learnt it from media. Most of the tobacco advertisements are fascinating and are conveyed using numerous colors which make them attractive.

Accordingly, children develop a perception that smoking is good and makes one feel being part of a certain social class or status. There are children who start smoking with an intension of seeking self identity (Gostin, Arno & Brandt pp. 417-118). Such children think that smoking is meant for mature people and the only way they can show others that they are mature is by smoking.

Regulating cigarette smoking

Banning cigarette smoking would adversely affect national economy as tobacco industry contributes to the Gross National production of United States of America. Rather than banning cigarette smoking, measures ought to be put in place to regulate cigarette use. Children need to be educated on the effects of smoking cigarettes at an early age.

Highlighting negative effects of cigarette smoking to children would help in scaring them away from smoking while those who smoke would work hard to stop it before they get addicted. Between 1967 and 1970 Americans were informed about pros and cons of smoking. This led to the number of smokers decreasing by 7% as people learnt about the dangers they were exposing themselves to by smoking.

It was also found that more than 7000 adolescents who had started smoking stopped (Borland pp. 374-380). The number of young smokers started increasing immediately the government became reluctant and allowed such messages to be withdrawn from televisions and radios.

Parents have to be educated on dangers of smoking in presence of their children, sending children to buy cigarettes and leaving cigarettes in places that their children can access them. If parents must smoke let them do it away from their children.

The government needs to put forth stern warning to retailers who sell cigarettes to children. Retailers ought to first enquire on the age of persons buying cigarette if they suspect them to be minors. This is by asking them about their age and if they doubt them demand for a document showing their age such as identity card both national and college identification card or driver’s license.

This would scare away minors from purchasing cigarettes as well as discourage parents from sending their children. In most cases, young smokers are incapable of buying cigarettes in big packages. They go for smaller packages. Recently, there was introduction of “kiddie” packs in United States ((Borland pp. 381-382).

These are smaller packages of cigarettes that are inexpensive and easy to hide. The introduction has offered young smokers an opportunity to continue smoking as they are now capable of buying them. The government ought to stick to the rule that requires retailers not distribute cigarettes in small quantities. This would make it hard for children and adolescents to purchase cigarettes.

Companies in tobacco industry get high returns as tobacco products are highly consumed across the globe. As a result, the companies are capable of using huge amount of money to make sure that they come up with strongly appealing advertisements. It is the government’s duty to ensure that these companies are compelled to make sure that they have reduced appeal of their advertisements to children and adolescents (Gostin pp. 234-236).

Even if we try to warn youths on the dangers of cigarette smoking and continue running appealing advertisements in our televisions and press, we will not make significant steps towards helping them quit or steer clear from smoking.

This does not imply that tobacco companies should stop running their advertisements. In stead, advertisements should be presented in such a way that they retain advertisement components and labels that provide information to adults but do away with those appealing labels such as imagers and colors that draw children and adolescents to cigarette smoking.

All tobacco advertisements need to be conveyed in black-and-white and the number of imagery and moving pictures reduced (JLCom Publishing Co., L.L.C para. 4-8). In addition, the rule that requires all outdoor advertisements done by tobacco companies are placed more than 1000 square feet from public playgrounds should be maintained and strictly enforced.

All items aimed at promoting tobacco products should not be sold to children and adolescents. These include products such as caps, T-shirts and other items that carry logos of tobacco related products. Nevertheless, tobacco companies should not be banned from holding or sponsoring events in their names. Taxation is another measure that needs to be used in regulating cigarette smoking.

Generally, when a product is highly taxed, it cost goes up. Rather than giving incentives to tobacco companies, the government ought to raise taxes for tobacco products so as to make them expensive (Gostin pp. 237-239). This will make it hard for children and adolescents to afford tobacco products thus discouraging them from smoking and using other tobacco products.

Lesson from alcohol prohibition

In early 19th century, ministers, employers and physicians established an ant-alcohol movement in bid to reduce the rate of alcohol consumption in America. The movement tried to convince the public that alcohol drinking had more harm than good. It claimed that as people continuously drink alcohol, their health deteriorate as well as moral character.

Alcohol was associated with various social problems that were facing the society such as poverty, insanity, violence as well as crimes (Levine & Reinarman para. 12).

To solve these problems, the movement maintained that people had to completely stop taking alcohol. With time, the movement gave birth to prohibitionist organization which eventually led to establishment of laws that banned manufacture and sale of alcohol in the country.

Despite the government coming up with laws that banned alcohol production and sales in American, people continued manufacturing and selling it secretly. The ban managed to curb alcohol production for commercial purpose but on the other hand people started manufacturing hard liquor.

Tens of thousands of people manufactured hard liquor in forests, basements and all other places that they believed the government would not easily identify. In addition, alcohol manufactured for industrial and medical use found its way to public hands (Levine & Reinarman para. 12).

The percentage of wine consumption increased during prohibition period. People were found to smuggle alcoholic drinks from other countries which had not banned alcohol production such as Italy. In other words, prohibition led to emergence of copious crimes with people using all available means to get access to alcohol.

There are those who saw prohibition as an avenue for making money. For instance, physicians prescribed wines and spirits and made them available in their pharmacies at a higher cost. People disguised as ministers and distributed “sacramental wine” in large quantities.

There are those who traveled all the way to Canada and came back with trucks full of liquor (Levine & Reinarman para. 14). Instead of eliminating alcohol industry, prohibition decentralized and made alcohol production and distribution autonomous.

Based on lesson learnt from alcohol prohibition, it is evident that American government can not and will never succeed in illegalizing cigarette smoking. By closing tobacco industry, the government would risk people growing and distributing tobacco products in secrete. In addition, tobacco is grown and processed in the neighboring countries.

Consequently, Americans would still access cigarettes by smuggling them from other countries. The government should not overlook the fact that closing tobacco industry would lead to emergence of cartels that would distribute tobacco products in the country.

Current high demand for tobacco products in America implies that there is a booming business with people making a lot of profit from cigarettes and other tobacco products. As a result, people can not just sit back and assume that since tobacco industries are closed demand for cigarettes in the country no longer exists.

There are those who would look for alternative means of distributing the products secretly. Whereas people think that illegalizing cigarettes would help in curbing smoking, it would only lead to more people getting involved in their production and distribution.

Rather than illegalizing cigarettes, the government needs to advocate for public education on dangers of cigarette smoking. Moreover, tobacco advertisements need to be regulated so as to ensure that they do not decoy children and adolescents.


Tobacco industry has great influence in United States’ economy since it offers jobs to thousands of Americans and is a source of revenue to the government. The industry is influential such that it is hard for the government to implement laws aimed at regulating its activities. Since over 45 million Americans smoke, the government lacks power to abolish smoking in the country.

High demand for tobacco products such as cigarettes is leading to tobacco companies buying other non-tobacco companies to increase their production and distribution. As the industry enjoys huge profits, it is possible for it to come up with appealing advertisements thus boosting its sales. These advertisements are blamed for making children and adolescents indulge in smoking.

Rather than illegalizing cigarette smoking, the government needs to come up with measures to regulate smoking. Some of these measures include prohibiting use of appealing advertisements and locating cigarette advertisements away from public playgrounds. Moreover, the government ought to highly tax tobacco products so as to make them expensive for children and adolescents (Pechmann, Zhao, Goldberg & Thomas pp. 1-18).

Additionally children and adolescents should be educated on the dangers of smoking. This will discourage them from smoking for those who have not started. Young smokers should be helped to quit. As evidenced by alcohol prohibition, illegalizing cigarettes would only lead to a more severe problem.

Americans would look for alternative ways of producing and distributing cigarettes secretly. It is the duty of American government to come up with measures to regulate cigarette smoking rather than thinking of abolishing smoking.

Works Cited

Bearman, Peter. After Tobacco: What Would Happen If Americans Stopped Smoking? New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

Borland Ron. “A strategy for controlling the marketing of tobacco products: a regulated market model.” Tob Control 12 (2003):374–82.

Glantz, Stanton & Balbach, Edith. Tobacco war: Inside the California battles. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Gostin, Lawrence O. “Global Regulatory Strategies for Tobacco Control.” The Journal of the American Medical Association 17 (2007): 234-239.

Gostin, Lawrence, Arno, Peter & Brandt, Allan. “FDA regulation of tobacco advertising and youth smoking. Historical, social, and constitutional perspectives. Journal of the American Medical Association 277 (1999):410–418.

JLCom Publishing Co., L.L.C. “The Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco to Protect Children and Adolescents.” 2001. Web.

Levine, Harry G. & Reinarman, Craig. “Alcohol prohibition and drugs prohibition: Lessons from alcohol policy for drug policy.” 2004. Web.

Lovato, Chris, Linn, Gilat, Stead, Lindsay & Best, Allan. “Impact of tobacco advertising and promotion on increasing adolescent smoking behaviours.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003.

Pechmann, Cornelia, Zhao, Guangzhi, Goldberg, Marvin & Thomas, Ellen. “What to Convey in Antismoking Advertisements for Adolescents: The Use of Protection Motivation Theory to Identify Effective Message Themes.” Journal of Marketing 67(2003):1–18.

Saloojee, Yussuf & Dagli, Elif. “Tobacco industry tactics for resisting public policy on health.” Bull World Health Organization 78 (2000):902–910.

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Mcgee, Amanda. 2019. "Should Cigarettes be Illegal?" IvyPanda (blog), July 8, 2019.


Mcgee, A. (2019) 'Should Cigarettes be Illegal?'. IvyPanda, 8 July.

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