Those Damned Smokers Are Preventing Us From Meeting National Health Objectives

The government's latest survey data indicate that the prevalence of smoking among American adults has leveled off at around 21 percent. "This prevalence had not changed significantly since 2004," says the CDC, "suggesting a stall in the previous 7-year (1997--2004) decline in cigarette smoking among adults in the United States." The CDC worries that at this rate the "national health objective" of reducing smoking prevalence to less than 12 percent by 2010 may not be met.

Over the longer term, however, the decline in the smoking rate is remarkable: It has been cut in half since its peak of 43 percent in the mid-1960s. Per capita cigarette consumption, which peaked at 4,345 in 1963, is now under 2,000. Notably, the rate of decline was fastest in the first couple of decades after the 1964 surgeon general's report linking smoking to lung cancer and other diseases. Three-quarters of the drop in prevalence had occurred by 1990. Since then, not coincidentally, anti-smoking measures have become increasingly coercive, focusing on heavy taxes and smoking bans rather than education and persuasion. The people who continue to smoke clearly are less susceptible to appeals based on health concerns than the people who have quit or chosen not to take up the habit in the last few decades, so achieving "national health objectives" will require sterner measures than the "countermarketing" recommended by the CDC. Proliferating and increasingly stringent smoking bans, coupled with punitive taxes along the lines of New York City's $3-a-pack levy, might do the trick. I have a feeling we're going to find out.

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  • ||

    As a non-smoker, I don't like the smell of tobacco smoke and avoid restaurants or bars that allow it.

    But I have no intention of telling someone how they can or cannot run their business.

    I also have no liking for "sin taxes" on people who find pleasure in smoking.

    In my house, they butt out. In their house, I shut up.

  • ||

    Clearly taxes and indoor smoking bans are not the answer. Outright prohibition is the only answer for the scourge of tobacco. Make it illegal and no one will smoke.

    Right?

  • ||

    Well, all the low hanging fruit has been picked. Law of diminishing returns and all that. I know, let's make tobacco cultivation and distribution a felony (let's hear it for the commerce clause! Go team, Go!). It doesn't cost anything to pass a law and then all of those law abiding smokers will quit, joe and Dan T. won't have to woory about second hand smoke anymore and we can all get around to worrying about this menace

    Hey, it's worth a try?

  • ||

    Kwix

    Please make tobacco illegal in the USA.

    Then I can get rich like the Bronfmans.

    ;P

  • ||

    Clearly, the 21 percent who continue to smoke (me included) are committed to lighting up. And the more you tax us, the more you ban us, the more likely it is that we'll start bombing government buildings. Not me, of course. Just sayin' ...

  • ||

    Smoking is an activity of the lower classes, and so we really can't expect it to decline much more unless we want to improve the lives of said lower classes and give them less reason to self-medicate.

    Which is crazy, of course.

  • ed||

    Outright prohibition is the only answer for the scourge of tobacco.
    Make it illegal and no one will smoke


    I know you jest, Kwix, but the last time we tried prohibition, a certain bootlegger grew rich and prosperous and used his mob connections and propensity for unprotected sex to unleash the scourge of the Kennedy Clan upon an unsuspecting America. Anything but that!

  • ||

    Smoking is an activity of the lower classes, and so we really can't expect it to decline much more unless we want to improve the lives of said lower classes and give them less reason to self-medicate.

    Dan T., you are a bulbous, slippery, humid cunt.

  • ||

    $3 a pack tax? Jesus, the cost of an entire pack down here is like $3.50!

  • ed||

    an activity of the lower classes

    That's so true. But when I light up a cigar and tickle the ivories, I feel sophisticated
    and elegant, just like Cole Porter! Without the gay bit, of course.
    Not that there's anything...well, you know.

  • ||

    ...we want to improve the lives of said lower classes and give them...

    It's all about you again is it?

  • ||

    If it is an activity of the lower class Dan, why are you so big on regressive taxation?

  • Paul||

    The people who continue to smoke clearly are less susceptible to appeals based on health concerns

    Wouldn't this fall right into what we've been saying for years: That everyone knows that cigarettes are injurious to health, so at this point anyone still smoking doesn't care.

  • Nephilium||

    Wait, I became lower class? When did this happen?

    I really wish people would make up their minds... when it's income tax, I'm one of the evil rich... since I smoke, I'm lower class.

    Nephilium... smoker.

  • douglas Gray||

    There should be a tax incentive for tobacco smokers to switch to marijuana. It's much better for you, tastes better, smells better, improves appetite, kills pain.........

  • ||

    There should be a tax incentive for tobacco smokers to switch to marijuana. It's much better for you, tastes better, smells better, improves appetite, kills pain.........

    If I were dictator and could pick only two drugs to legalize, it would be alcohol and marijuana not alcohol and tobacco.

  • ||

    $3 a pack tax? Jesus, the cost of an entire pack down here is like $3.50!

    Michigan, brand name smokes START at $5.00.

  • ||

    Even if they totally banned tobacco there would still be a black market (how much for the ounce of homegrown shag?)

  • Lord Jubjub||

    Anyone know how big the black market for tobacco is?

  • ||

    Anyone know how big the black market for tobacco is?

    In Montana, where smokes are >$5.00, there are quite a few people who regularly make the drive to Idaho to stock up on $3.50 packs for themselves and their buddies. Don't know if that's "black market," but I'm sure the government would look too favorably on it.

  • ||

    correction: "... government WOULDN'T look ..."

  • Joshua Holmes||

    I've seen no evidence, anecdotally or statistically, that suggests that smoking is now a lower-class pastime.

    I also don't see any evidence folks are using it to self-medicate, although Dan T.'s definition and mine are probably different. Everyone I know who started smoking did it to be cool or fit in, not to cure either mental or physical ailments.

  • ||

    The CDC worries that at this rate the "national health objective" (sic) of reducing smoking prevalence to less than 12 percent by 2010 may not be met.

    We're supposed to be the CDC's cattle? Are people owned by the State now? Who the Fuc& are they to impose some "objective" on people?

    And I say this as a non-smoker.

    and so we really can't expect it to decline much more unless we want to improve the lives of said lower classes and give them less reason to self-medicate.

    What's with this "We" business, Kimo Sabi? A person's health is sorely the business of that person, his preferred physician and not one else.

  • Rhywun||

    Jesus, the cost of an entire pack down here is like $3.50!

    I hate you. Not as much as that snob Dan T., but still. Anyway, a pack of smokes in NYC is around $6.50 now--that's down from a high of over $8 several years ago. Plus, there are discount 2- and 3-packs everywhere. I guess I've been paying an average of around $5 a pack lately.

    Everyone I know who started smoking did it to be cool or fit in, not to cure either mental or physical ailments.

    I started because me and my buddies couldn't get a hold of any more weed. No joke.

    Are people owned by the State now?

    Pffff... where've you been?

  • Paul||

    It's much better for you, tastes better, smells better, improves appetite, kills pain.........

    Douglass Gray, may I remind you we are in the midst of an obesity crisis?

  • Paul||

    Even if they totally banned tobacco there would still be a black market

    Ya think?

    Wait, except that NPR said that banning cigarettes makes people want to quit. That's why we don't have heroin addicts, crack addicts, cocaine addicts...

  • ||


    Paul | November 9, 2007, 5:07pm | #

    It's much better for you, tastes better, smells better, improves appetite, kills pain.........

    Douglass Gray, may I remind you we are in the midst of an obesity crisis?



    Don't worry. We'll ban food.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Paul,

    I will note that the numbers of people addicted to tobacco is much, much, larger than the number of cocaine/crack, heroin addicts. Be careful how you introduce evidence into this discussion.

  • ||

    Those darned Five-Year Plans just never seem to work right, do they?

  • Paul||

    Neu,

    Yes, and?

    You don't think that the notion of a substance ban reducing the number of addicted people is worth bringing up in a debate about illegal substances?

    Let's pretend (for a moment) that I take no particularly strong position on the War on Drugs. No, wait I'll do one better. Let's pretend for a minute that NPR does take an editorial position on the War on Drugs. Then let's pretend for a minute that the position they take is one of skepticism re: effectiveness vs effort. Do you not find it at all interesting that they can produce a news story such as the one they did and not even mention, nay, not even allude to the War on Drugs as a larger concept? I think that some serious chin-scratching is in order, at least.

    What you're suggesting (and I would agree from a mere statistical standpoint) that but for the bans, we'd have much higher addicion levels for cocain, herion etc. Fair enough. When do we start drawing the lines and connecting the dots?

  • philip||

    Ban booze i love fags.
    Ban fags i love booze.
    Ban food im over weight.
    Airs bad for you.
    You can drown drinking water.
    So why not ban them all and be done with it.

  • ||

    Didn't I see somewhere that nicotine is an anti-depressant?

    btw. carton of camels here in south alabama for $24.99

    hit the indian smoke shops in Idaho for tax free smokes

  • ||

    I'm American and I live in London, England, where a pack of smokes is roughly £5.50 ($11.00), almost all of it is tax. Each and every year, another hefty tax levy is added to discourage smoking, so by next year a pack will cost about £6.25. Furthermore, a total smoking ban in all public indoor spaces and workplaces came into effect last July. Strangely, if you're a delivery driver working alone in your company van or what have you, it is also illegal to smoke in your van while you drive (as this is considered a "workplace").

    The rabid anti-smoking crowd is actively trying to prevent smoking in any outdoor public spaces, too. They say this infringes their human rights to breathe clean air. Well, apart from the fact that there is truly no such thing as "human rights" (a topic for another day, I suppose), isn't it ironic that these anti-smokers fail to consider that cars, buses, trucks, homes and buildings are dirtying up the air, too? Has anyone (who isn't deathly allergic) ever dropped dead from twenty-minutes to an hour of second-hand smoke exposure? No. It has never happened. But you would die if you spent twenty minutes breathing in car exhaust fumes in an enclosed space. If you don't believe me, try it and see. I don't see too many people calling for the complete and total ban of cars or home heating... God, no.

    Smokers are being systematically oppressed by people who believe they know better. It doesn't matter whether smoking is harmful. It is your body, and you should have the freedom to do whatever you like to your body. As for smoking bans in pubs, well a more sensible approach would be to let pub owners decide if their establishment was a smoking or non-smoking venue. Some would have chosen non-smoking, certainly, and non-smokers could gather at those, while smokers could gather at their venues. That's freedom of choice. But we do not have real freedom in this world, we never have, and we never will. Every time you ban something it is totalitarianism, bordering on fascism. It is saying to others that only your belief system is correct and that others are incapable of deciding how they can live their lives, and what chemicals they can choose to put into their bodies.

    But with cars, I don't have any choice in the matter. I am forced to breathe car exhaust during every trip to the shop, or to work, or just sitting in my back garden. It's inescapable. But no one has ever been forced to breathe second-hand smoke -- that was always escapable (yes, even for restaurant and pub workers, they didn't have to work there). You had a choice to enter a smoking establishment or go somewhere else.

    Well, it's time to ban everything I suppose. Fireplaces are next, as they emit the exact same chemicals found in cigarette smoke but in far greater quantities (all combustion processes emit the same chemicals, by the way). Coffee will be banned, too, because it has no nutritious value and if you drink enough, you could damage your heart. After enough people choke on a fish bone, we'll ban all fish. And how many people die from accidental slipping in the bathtub each year? Thousands, I imagine. So baths are clearly dangerous and should be banned. People drown in oceans and lakes and rivers every year, so to protect your health and safety, all bodies of water are now banned.

    Once you allow one ban, everything is fair game. If you believe you have the right to tell other people how they should live their lives, you are essentially practicing fascism. Think about it. Who the hell are you to tell us how we can live our lives? You live yours, and I'll live mine.

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