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Cigarette Laws have gone too far


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Cigarettes have been in the news a lot lately. This isn’t new: ever since the severe health damage that smoking causes became public knowledge decades ago; the press have villianised the tobacco industry, holding them responsible for the deaths and health problems that their products have caused.

Since then the government have taken it upon themselves to save their constituents from these ‘evil’ tobacco companies yet despite all their efforts, millions of people still smoke every day. But there is one country who refuses to be beaten by the tobacco companies. That country is Australia, which has just issued the toughest cigarette labelling laws, which is set to take effect in December.

As of December, brand logos will be banned on cigarette packaging and graphic images of mouth ulcers, cancerous lungs and gangrenous limbs will dominate the front of all cigarette packages sold in the country. The brand name and the variant of the cigarette can be printed on a very small space. Furthermore, packages will be required to be a uniform shade of olive green.

Let me make it clear, I am in no way sticking up for the tobacco industry. They are not innocent victims. But I can’t help but feel that this has gone a little too far. At the end of the day, the tobacco industry, like all other industries, are just trying to make a living. Granted it is at the expense of others lives, but their product is not illegal. Legally the have to place warning signs on their products, a law that they have upheld for decades.

According to stats, approximately 80% of the world’s smokers live in low or middle income countries, countries with higher levels of illiteracy. So the government are not far off: educating people on the dangers of smoking is key to decreasing the six million people that die from smoking related illness each year.

But this new law just seems far too extremists and it may have the opposite effect. Cigarette packages already have graphic images that depict the illnesses that arise from smoking yet people still smoke. In fact the smokers barely even notice the images anymore so this method backfired. Seeing as smokers have become desensitized to the pictures of the warnings, surely making the image larger isn’t going to make much of a difference. Smokers don't buy tobacco for the packaging, they do so for the product inside.

Taking a look back over the years, smokers and non-smokers have adapted to every smoking related law that has been thrust upon them by their government.

Many smokers protested against the smoking ban that came into effect in the UK in 2007 but five years later, everyone has adapted. Today seeing people smoking outside pubs and restaurant has become a norm.

Then some states in America decided to ban smoking in some public areas. Their rationale was that non-smokers shouldn’t be forced to inhale the toxic smoke. They had a point but all this did was make smokers avoid certain places; it didn’t deter them from their vice.

There are many more case studies, too many to choose from. Still the government has not won the fight against the smoking industry or rapidly decreased the amount of smokers in the world. Now I’m not saying that the government should give up, I’m saying that they should change their tactics. Scaring people and segregating people hasn’t worked. Increasing the price of tobacco hasn’t worked. What will work is a different approach.

People do things because they want to. No one likes to feel like they are being forced into doing anything. At the end of the day, smoking is a choice, and so is quitting - facts that I don’t think governments take into consideration when they enforce their laws.

All these laws do is anger the smokers, the very people that the government should be trying to help. Yes, the greater good should always be taken into consideration; there are more non-smokers than smokers so therefore wellbeing of non-smokers must be a priority but smoking is an epidemic, it has been for decades if something isn’t done soon, it could become a pandemic.

The solution to this smoking epidemic lies in the foundations of why people take up the habits in the first place. The only way to eliminate this problem to the find the root cause and pull it out, without this no matter how many laws are made, this problem will carry on growing from decade to decade.

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