Let me preface this article by stating, simply: If you already smoke cigarettes, this article will present no new information about your health. I am quite sure that cigarette smokers are probably very aware of the risks they undertake, not only because of the many anti-smoking campaigns but also because of pressure from their peers.
Furthermore, I profess no authority in telling the reader what he or she can and cannot do. Everyone has the right to do what they will and spend their own money how they please. Aaron Davis's article from two weeks ago is correct: Smoking is an adult choice. Those that enjoy cigarettes and enjoy the company of other people that smoke cigarettes are free to do so, and my opinion cannot change this.
This article is instead geared toward non-smokers who are considering starting. Particularly, I would like to speak to freshmen arriving in a new atmosphere in an entirely new group of peers, free from parent supervision and quite free to make this adult choice.
My response to Davis's article, which appeared in the Sept. 9 issue of The Lamron, is twofold: Do not be seduced by the romantic history of cigarettes and whatever positive social connotations they have, and do not buy the argument that cigarettes are good for the economy.
Smokers of cigarettes are indeed social pariahs. Upon lighting a cigarette in a public space, it has become acceptable, even expected, that smokers will be asked to either put it out or take their business elsewhere.
There are very good reasons for this stigmatization. Cigarettes instantly pollute the surrounding air with dangerous chemicals, and the effects of secondhand smoke are well documented. Smoking cigarettes in public also sets a bad example for children who could be inclined to smoke if they see that it is socially acceptable.
Ultimately, the idea of a suave, cigarette-smoking man or the film-noir actress taking a long drag has been supplanted by a new idea: Smoking is a supremely selfish act. There is no such thing as healthy smoking. This also raises the fallacy that smoking can be portrayed as good for the economy or even as a civic duty. Let me be clear: smoking is not economically good for anyone except tobacco companies. It is expensive to individuals, and the total health costs far outweigh any economic benefit. According to a study by the Council for Disease Prevention, the economic factors of smoking on health and productivity far outweigh any gains.
Where taxes on cigarettes generate money for the government in millions, the long-term costs of smoking reach billions. Each pack of cigarettes will incur $3.45 in medical care and $3.73 in productivity losses. Set to the tune of billions of packs sold every year, a high tax on cigarettes relieves only some of the burden that smoking creates. Health complications caused by cigarettes take up beds in crowded hospitals that could be instead given to a patient whose illness was not self-inflicted.
Cigarettes are the worst decision you can make for your own health; smoking separates you from society and drains it of its resources. It is an unjustifiable habit.