Should Smoking Be Banned Altogether and Not Just at Airports?
As I first reported in this article on Monday, July 15, 2019, an ordinance for a broad and complete ban will be in effect at the international airport which serves the greater Atlanta metropolitan area as of Thursday, January 2, 2020 — meaning that those smoking rooms on the concourses will be closed — even though smoking and “vaping” are currently restricted to specially designated smoking rooms and other certain specific areas.
Should Smoking Be Banned Altogether and Not Just at Airports?
I thought about the well-reasoned comments — which were posted in response to that article which debated my stance of supporting the ban on smoking — from readers of The Gate, who included:
While I accept that smoking is bad for you and those around, I don’t think it acceptable for you to take the moral high ground on this. For example, you take flights, large amounts of which serve no purpose other than to write a review. These reviews are largely replicated by other bloggers or bloggers.
Given the above, do you not consider the effect of your job/hobby on the poorest people on earth? Next time you see thousands have died as a result of flooding consider your personal role in that.
Might I suggest you don’t make judgements of others unless you are willing to be judged by the same standards.
It’s a huge mistake to lump smoking and vaping together. Where are (serious) studies on the harm of water vapor?
Awful article and I do not agree at all – this is coming from a non-smoker.
Leave the designated smoking rooms alone, and please stop pretending you care about everyone’s personal health based on their smoking pastime.
Btw if you want to speak stats, 4 out 5 lung cancer patients are from nonsmokers.
I readily admit that I take the moral high ground on smoking for a variety of reasons — and I do not apologize for that at all, as some of those reasons are very personal…
…but I also adhere to the dictum that no matter how bad things are, there is always some good which comes from them — and vice versa. In other words, nothing is ever 100 percent good or bad — although some things are asymptotically close…
…and I also believe in keeping an open mind. I then asked myself if any benefits exist which are related to smoking — besides the revenue which both the tobacco industry and governments earn from the sales of products related to smoking — so I did some research.
Benefits to Smoking?
“Who says smoking cigarettes is so bad … well, aside from the World Health Organization, Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and every medical board and association on the face of the Earth?” asked this article for Live Science which lists five health benefits to smoking. “But should smokers be fortunate enough to dodge all that cancer, heart disease, emphysema and the like, they will be uniquely protected — for reasons unexplained by science — against a handful of diseases and afflictions.”in
The article claims that smoking helps the heart drug clopidogrel work better — as well as lowers the risk of knee replacement surgery, Parkinson’s disease, obesity, and death after some heart attacks — and explains the reasons why.
I then found this official publication from the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health of the United States from January of 1996 — almost 24 years ago — which states in the following abstract:
Beneficial effects of nicotine and cigarette smoking: the real, the possible and the spurious.
Cigarette smoking is an established risk factor for cancer and cardiovascular disease, and is the leading cause of avoidable disease in most industrialized countries. Less well-known are possible beneficial effects, which are briefly considered in this survey. Preliminary data suggest that there may be inverse associations of smoking with uterine fibroids and endometriosis, and protective effects on hypertensive disorders and vomiting of pregnancy are likely. Smoking has consistently been found to be inversely related to the risk of endometrial cancer, but cancers of the breast and colon seem unrelated to smoking. Inverse associations with venous thrombosis and fatality after myocardial infarction are probably not causal, but indications of benefits with regard to recurrent aphthous ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and control of body weight may well reflect a genuine benefit. Evidence is growing that cigarette smoking and nicotine may prevent or ameliorate Parkinson’s disease, and could do so in Alzheimer’s dementia. A variety of mechanisms for potentially beneficial effects of smoking have been proposed, but three predominate: the ‘anti-estrogenic effect’ of smoking; alterations in prostaglandin production; and stimulation of nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the central nervous system. Even established inverse associations cannot be used as a rationale for cigarette smoking. These data can be used, however, to clarify mechanisms of disease, and point to productive treatment or preventive options with more narrowly-acting interventions.
I did not know if anything has changed in 24 years; but I found this official publication from the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health of the United States from September of 2014, which states in the following abstract:
Smoke and Mirrors: The Perceived Benefits of Continued Tobacco use Among Current Smokers
Despite 50+ years of public health efforts to reduce smoking rates in the United States, approximately one-fifth of the adults living in this country continue to smoke cigarettes. Previous studies have examined smokers’ risk perceptions of cigarette smoking, as well as the perceived benefits of quitting smoking. Less research has focused on the perceived benefits of smoking among current cigarette smokers. The latter is the main focus of the present paper. Questionnaire-based interviews were conducted with a community-based sample of 485 adult current cigarette smokers recruited from the Atlanta, Georgia, metropolitan area between 2004 and 2007. Active and passive recruiting approaches were used, along with a targeted sampling strategy. Results revealed that most current cigarette smokers perceive themselves to experience benefits as a result of their cigarette use, including (among others) increased relaxation, diminished nervousness in social situations, enjoyment of the taste of cigarettes when smoking, and greater enjoyment of parties when smoking. Perceiving benefits from cigarette smoking was associated with a variety of tobacco use measures, such as smoking more cigarettes, an increased likelihood of chain smoking, and overall negative attitude toward quitting smoking, among others. Several factors were associated with the extent to which smokers perceived themselves to benefit from their tobacco use, including education attainment, the age of first purchasing cigarettes, the proportion of friends who smoked, hiding smoking from others, being internally-oriented regarding locus of control, and self-esteem.
So are the perceived benefits of smoking little more than smoke and mirrors?
“There are approximately 600 ingredients in cigarettes”, according to this article from the American Lung Association, which is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. “When burned, cigarettes create more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, and many are toxic.”
Some of those 600 ingredients purportedly include acetone, ammonia, arsenic, benzene, butane, cadmium, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, lead, methanol, nicotine and tar. I would not voluntarily ingest or breath any of those items into my body — let alone a potentially toxic cocktail of them…
Smoking: From “Beneficial” to Harmful
…which led me to wonder why in the world would anyone want to start smoking or “vaping” in the first place?
“When I grew up, smoking was considered glamorous,” one long-time smoker told me when I asked that question. “Look at the movies and television shows from that era. Almost everyone is smoking a cigarette. Also, the commercials glorified cigarettes.”
This video from The Smoking Hat is a collection of some commercials which basically show how life is better overall just from smoking a cigarette.
The smooth, rich flavor of smoking that tobacco product will result in you being wealthier, more attractive to the opposite sex, living life better and — yes — even healthier.
“Health-warning labels have been required to appear on all cigarette packages sold in the United States for more than 40 years”, according to this article which is posted at the official Internet web site of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. “The Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 required the following health warning, prescribed by Congress, to be placed on all cigarette packages sold in the United States: CAUTION: CIGARETTE SMOKING MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH.” Other warnings of various types adorned smoking products over the years and still do to this day.
Members of the House of Representatives of the United States voted to ban cigarette commercials from airing on television on April 1, 1970; and the ban became effective on January 2, 1971. By 1997, outdoor, billboard and public transportation advertising of cigarettes in 46 states were banned as well; and cigarette advertisements no longer appear in print publications such as magazines and newspapers — all because cigarettes are widely known to be considered harmful to your health.
In the aforementioned article, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco also conveniently provides links to the Internet web sites of the Surgeon General of the United States and other public health officials.
- The Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation
- 2014 Surgeon General’s Report
- 2012 Surgeon General’s Report
- 2010 Surgeon General’s Report
- 2006 Surgeon General’s Report
- 2004 Surgeon General’s Report
- Previous Surgeon General’s Reports
- The Health Consequences of Using Smokeless Tobacco
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Cancer Institute
- American Cancer Society
- American Heart Association
After giving the topic more thought, I realized that the smoking dilemma is another one of those controversies with which society chooses to debate the ancillary layers of the issue rather than the core of problem itself: people need to stop smoking. Period.
“Smoking is an addiction,” another long-time smoker who was forced to finally stop after losing a lung during emergency surgery told me. “Don’t let anyone tell you differently.”
People who currently smoke cigarettes may not be able to voluntarily quit without help; but quitting is possible with the variety of solutions which are currently available. However, no one can force someone to quit a habit which they enjoy for their various reasons and have no desire to stop.
Ironically, former smokers are bothered more than anyone whenever they encounter second-hand smoke — and they have told me so over the years. The habit which they once enjoyed so much actually repulsed them — and not because they were jealous that they were no longer smoking.
Education is necessary to prevent people from taking up the habit in the future — regardless of the method and conveyance used to ingest nicotine and other addictive drugs into the body — especially teenagers and younger adults.
I still like the idea of completely banning smoking in airports and other public places because it bothers me, causes me discomfort, and is unhealthy for me — and I get no enjoyment out of it. Call me selfish. I don’t care. I just staunchly believe that no one has the right to inflict the misery of second-hand smoke upon me; and I have a right to not want to breath in the smoke from someone’s cigarette, cigar, pipe or marijuana joint…
…so maybe Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly is correct when he wrote in this article that “Furthermore, in my experience indoor smoking bans lead to more second hand smoke, as smokers, even 25 feet away from doors, tend to encounter more passengers than in a specially-ventillated separate room.” I can be standing outside with acres of room; and yet a smoker somehow tends to sidle up right next to me anyway to light up that stick of rich tobacco goodness.
As much as I support the ban on smoking at public airports, it does not resolve the issue overall — nor does banning smoking by either government entities or private concerns in general. The Prohibition era proved that banning the production, sale, transportation and consumption of alcoholic beverages in 1920 failed miserably; and that era ended in 1933.
The news about the smoking ban is not going to completely leave smokers with that need for a nicotine fix with no resolve — for a limited time, at least — according to this statement from the official Internet web site of the airport:
While Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is in full compliance with the City of Atlanta smoking ordinance and the state of Georgia’s Smoke Free Act, we realize that for many passengers, smoking is a part of their daily activity. That is why the airport will make available free, Good Sense branded, FDA approved nicotine replacement therapy lozenges for a limited time. The lozenges can be found at participating concessionaires throughout the domestic and international concourses from January 2-31, 2020.
Like other societal issues, smoking needs to be resolved at its core — despite the aforementioned purported benefits of smoking, which are clearly outnumbered by the disadvantages — which I believe is through the use education and logical efforts to further reduce the number of people who smoke…
…until no one smokes anymore — which may be an unrealistic goal; but is worthy of a chance. After all, think about it: when was the last time you had to be concerned about being seated near the smoking section towards the rear of an airplane?
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.