Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christa Blackwell: Why Nicotine Should be Illegal

"Why Nicotine Should be Illegal"
Christa Blackwell
ENG 102

440,000 deaths are associated with smoking every year (CDC, 2010). That alone should open up our eyes to see that this is a very serious issue in today’s world. Tobacco is a multi-billion dollar industry that is killing our population. If smoking were illegal we would not have as many people suffering from health concerns in America that there are today. Our hospitals are overcrowded with patients that are getting diseases from something that they are putting in their body, not knowing all the consequences of what they are doing from the start. Nicotine is not doing anything but harming Americans and showing our youth that it is ok to slowly kill ourselves. We are setting up an example that is ok to do these things when in reality it is not. Even with the continuing costs of nicotine on the rise this does not help fight the ongoing war with nicotine.

Nicotine has a much more powerful hold on smokers than alcohol does on drinkers. Whereas about 10 percent of alcohol users lose control of their intake of alcohol and become alcoholics, as many as 80 percent of all heavy smokers have tried to cut down or quit smoking but cannot overcome this dependence(Hales, 2009:375). Alcohol and nicotine are both legal here in the United States. With nicotine being more addictive than alcohol why is nicotine not illegal? You don’t see people going into rehab because of tobacco abuse. It is treated differently because it does not alter your state of mind as does alcohol and other drugs. But just as Alcohol has withdrawal symptoms, nicotine does as well. Nicotine withdrawal usually begins within hours. Symptoms include cravings, irritability, anxiety, restlessness and increased appetite (Hales, 2009: 377). Ultimately nicotine users need just as much help if not more to start the quitting process. It would be very beneficial for users to get to go to a 30 day rehab where they can be surrounded by others who have the same problems and have counselors to talk to about their issues. It is still a process and addiction that needs to be addressed according to the person.

Nicotine causes major health concerns for people who use it regularly and to people who have quit. Even for people who have smoked for years a lot have already done irreversible damage to their bodies that cannot be taken back. The diseases that you can get that are associated with nicotine are Cancer, (especially lung cancer), emphysema, heart disease, and other respiratory diseases. These are just a few things that your body can go through just by using nicotine. Smoking is linked to at least ten different cancers. It is the cause of more than 80 percent of all cases of lung cancer. The more people smoke, the longer they smoke, and the earlier they start smoking, the more likely they are to develop lung cancer (Hales, 2009: 379). The chemicals that are in nicotine are extremely hazardous to our health which is why they cause cancer. From my personal experience a family friend was diagnosed with lung cancer and she had quit smoking almost 20 years ago. This just shows how it affects our lungs. Even when people do eventually quit they have done damage that cannot be fixed. If nicotine was illegal, a lot of the healthcare issues would be addressed but would not be at the level they are now with nicotine being legal. We would not see as many cases of people in the hospital for smoking related diseases. And since nicotine would be harder to find and you would not be able to light a cigarette up wherever you wanted, causing people to be more inconspicuous about smoking. I work at UK and there is not a day that goes by that I do not drive by the hospital to see patients lined up with their oxygen tanks puffing on their cigarettes. The saddest part of it all is that they are more than likely in the hospital for nicotine related issues, continuing to kill themselves. If nicotine was illegal people would not be able to smoke as freely as they do now, but also they would be saving their bodies from these harmful diseases.

With women being just as dependent on nicotine as men it is inevitable that they would continue to use nicotine during pregnancy. Women who smoke present different challenges to doctors. The impact of their smoking on the fetus is a major public health issue(Bradley:2009, 371).Infants born to smoking mothers appear to suffer from reduced lung capacity, with the infants experiencing an average of 10% reduction in their lung functions. Infants born to women who smoke a pack a day or more were found twice as likely to grow up and become cigarette smokers as to children of non-smoking mothers. Finally, infants who are exposed to cigarette smoke suffer a significantly higher rate of SIDS than infants who are not exposed to this hazard (Doweiko, 2009: 247). What is happening is that mothers are consciously making a decision to put hazardous chemicals in their body when they know that this could harm the child. Right now when you go into a hospital if a mother is knowingly taking drugs, the child is drug tested upon birth and if they find drugs in the child’s system the child is immediately taken away. The same should be done in these cases as well for nicotine. The child could suffer from devastating problems that would carry on into the child’s adult life. With SIDS the child could die, and all because the mother wanted to continue using nicotine. If nicotine was illegal, we could punish the people that are doing this to infants who have no say in the matter. They could have consequences for their actions especially if it was found they had done damage to the child from their decisions. I don’t think that nicotine is any different than drugs when a woman is pregnant, both nicotine and drugs do damage to an infant. If smoking were eliminated, it is estimated that there would be 25 percent fewer low birth weights in infants (Robertson, 2002:49). This would help our children’s healthcare immensely with them being born healthy and not having to go to the hospital or getting checked out as much as they would if they had health problems. As a whole this would cut down on healthcare costs, which in our overspending country would be very beneficial.

More than 126 million nonsmoking Americans continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke in homes, vehicles, workplaces, and public places. Most exposures to tobacco smoke occur in homes and workplaces. Almost 60% of US children aged 3-11 years –or almost 22 million children—are exposed to secondhand smoke (CDC,2007). Just recently has it been said that secondhand smoke could cause health problems to those who do not smoke. Children are at the greatest risk for health problems due to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke in the home poses great hazards for the children present. More than 350,000 respiratory diseases are found in children each year that are directly related to secondhand smoke(Robertson, 2002:49). Children are at such high risk for getting different infections and get sick a lot more than children who are not exposed to secondhand smoke. It is so toxic because even though you are not actually smoking the tobacco, you are breathing the same chemicals as smokers are. These chemicals can come from the tobacco or the soil, paper and ingredients added to make the tobacco taste better. Carbon monoxide (car exhaust), Toluene (paint thinner), and cadmium (batteries) are just a few of the toxic chemicals that we breathe in by secondhand smoke. To an infant or small child with a poor immune system these chemicals could harm them irreversibly. Secondhand smoke is very deadly and a very serious problem. We don’t ask to be exposed to secondhand smoke sometimes we just are. There are different levels of secondhand smoke but with either being in a room with a lot of smoke or just a little bit they all affect you the same way. As adults we can leave the room, or ask the person not to do that around us. Children on the other hand don’t have that voice to choose if they want to be exposed to secondhand smoke, especially if their parents are smokers in the home. If smoking were illegal children would not have to deal with this health concern. Non-smokers wouldn’t have to worry if they go somewhere that they may be exposed to smoke. For example, I had to go to a retirement party for my uncle. This was in Ohio where smoking is permitted in private facilities. The whole room was full of smokers and I could barely stand it to stay in there. The next day my throat was hurting and I know it was because I am not around smokers that often. Secondhand smoke is just as bad as smoking if not worse because at least with smoking the people are choosing to smoke. Non-smokers are not choosing to be exposed to second-hand smoke.

Lexington, Kentucky was the first city in the state of Kentucky to put into effect a smoke-free ordinance and went into effect April 27, 2004 (Anderson:2007, 1). They have made restaurants, businesses and campuses a smoke-free environment. IT has affected all the bars here in Lexington with not allowing customers to smoke inside or on the premises without being fined for their actions. Penalties for violating this begin at $100 for the first offense, $250 for second offense, and $500 for each other offense after. Individuals who are smoking in a prohibited area and have been asked to leave can have trespassing charges brought against them if they refuse to leave (Anderson: 2007, 1). For people who are non-smokers this really was a breakthrough moment because now we could go out in public or our favorite restaurant and not be bothered by a cloud of smoke over our heads. It was very exciting time but now that some time has passed, even though people are not smoking inside buildings we are still being exposed in public places. This is such a great step in the right direction but I don’t believe that the ultimate goal was fulfilled here. The goal is to eliminate smoking and cause people to want to quit smoking. With smokers they will always find a way to smoke, so even though now there are fines they could receive for breaking these rules a lot of people either don’t get caught or are being over looked now. I think if smoking were illegal it would be helping us strive for a healthier way of life here in Kentucky and show people that we are serious about the regulations we are putting on the community.

On campus, University of Kentucky became smoke free on November 19, 2009. A few years after Lexington became smoke free. UK decided this was what they wanted to do because of all the money that is being spent on treating people who get sick from using tobacco products and being exposed to secondhand smoke. This is in turn directly related to their students, patients, employees and visitors at risk for disease. University of Kentucky has a high level of respect in the community and I don’t think that they would want people visiting the campus being disgusted at people using nicotine. As a UK employee, I have been directed affected by this smoking ban. I have seen the regulations go into effect and how upset people have become because of this ban. I have seen the worst possible thing happen, fire an employee for not smoking in the designated area. These designated smoking areas are being used instead of people being able to smoke wherever they want to. So now instead of seeing people smoking everywhere on campus they are just huddled up in certain areas. At the hospital the patients, visitors, and employees smoke on the corner of limestone. I do not see the benefit of smoking in one designated place or smoking campus wide. It is still smoking both ways and needs to be abolished.
$96 billion of the total US health care costs each year are attributed to smoking. This is below the total cost to society because it does not include burn care from smoking-related fires, prenatal care for low-birth weight infants or mothers who smoke, and medical care costs associated with disease from secondhand smoke. In addition, the costs of lost productivity due to smoking are $97 billion a year, making the economic burden of smoking to $193 billion per year (NIDA:2007). The direct costs of nicotine on our healthcare system are why nicotine should be illegal. Research that has been done on health care costs among former smokers suggests that quitters incur greater health care costs for up to four years after quitting. So if a smoker does not have health insurance either the hospital has to pay for the expenses he/she is racking up or we are using our taxpaying dollars to pay for healthcare expenses. I feel like there are a lot better things that we can use our money for than to pay hospital bills to a smoker. We have just now almost gotten out of the recession the economy has been in, and to continue to keep paying for these expenses will put us right back to where we do not want to be. I have seen now that companies are not willing to hire smokers and are giving their current employees time to quit or they may lose their jobs. Not only for the reason they are promoting a nicotine free workplace but because their healthcare costs are rising and it is effecting everyone in the company.

As you can see, Nicotine is affecting the community we live in. This is a multi-billion dollar industry that is taking control over our society. If we made nicotine illegal a lot of things would be changed. A lot of the health risks that smoking causes like lung cancer, asthma or emphysema would not be as prevalent as it is right now. We could be fighting back against these diseases because they are preventable diseases. Women being pregnant would be addressed at a more serious level than it is right now. Women wouldn’t be putting these chemicals in their bodies as freely now because they would face serious consequences. Just the same that a baby born with drugs in their system it would be treated the same with nicotine. Both are harmful to babies and both can leave them with irreversible damage. This also goes along with second-hand smoke. You would not be allowed to smoke in public places or even the privacy of your own home. This would be very beneficial to children who have no voice when it comes to secondhand smoke. They can’t choose if they want to stay where they are and breathe in these chemicals. They would not have to suffer the consequences of their parent’s actions any longer, leading to healthier, active and happy children. With the smoking ban being around for some years now, we have seen the results and how it is helping our community stay healthier. This is the first step to get nicotine illegal and showing society how we are fighting for the health of our community. And if you still believe that smoking isn’t that bad just look at how smoking is affecting healthcare costs but also the costs of medical insurance. We can be a part and help the national budget stay low by eliminating smoking. We will live in a much more proactive society that is concerned about the well being of others.

Anderson, Deborah. "Smoking Laws In Kentucky." Associated Content (2007): pg. 1-4. Web. 16 Nov 2010.

Brady, Kathleen. Women and Addiction: A comprehensive Handbook. New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 2009.

"Data & Statistics: Secondhand Smoke." Centers for Disease Control . N.p., 06142007. Web. 9 Nov 2010.

Doweiko, Harold E. Concepts of Chemical Dependency. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning, 2009.

Hales, Diana. An Invitation to Health. 2009-2010. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009.

Robertson, Cathie. Safety, Nutrition & Health in Childcare. Albany, NY: Delmar, 2002.

"Smoking and Tobacco Use ." Center for Disease Control. Center for Disease Control , 03 11 2010. Web. 3 Nov 2010.

"Tobacco Addiction." National Institute on Drug Abuse (2007): 1. Web. 16 Nov 2010.

1 comment:

ChrisB said...

Banning nicotine is not possible. It would be easier to remove the many plants that have nicotine in their make-up than to remove the highly profitable trade in nicotine that the pharmaceuticals are attempting to monopolize.
Bans come about due to massive funding from pharmaceutical 'charities' in the knowledge that smoking cessation will push ineffective NRT.
Nicotine is nicotine wherever it comes from so I congratulate the author on condemning evil pharmaceutical empires despite having fallen for all of their propaganda.