Time to kick the habit, America.
It is 2013, and smoking cigarettes will kill you. In today’s society, that is not a controversial statement, but it doesn’t require a long trip in the DeLorean to find a time in our history when it was.
Smoking itself has been around for about 18,000 years, dating back to when Asiatic people first crossed the Bering Strait and spread across the continents known today as the Americas, where tobacco is native. Smoking was touted as medicinally helpful for calming nerves, suppressing hunger, and even combating the plague. Some argue that American tobacco was one of the major catalysts of the Revolutionary War because the British were unwilling to give up their exclusive supply of the crop. Of course that’s impossible: What kind of civilized country would go to war over access to natural resources?
Tobacco is ingrained into the American culture. It was our first “cash crop” and as cigarettes became easy to mass-produce at the beginning of the 20th century and advertising became more prevalent, smoking was everywhere. The majority of adults smoked… a lot. Cigarettes were included in military rations clear up until 1975. At that point, it was starting to be made clear that smoking might not be the healthiest activity for people. Despite these revelations, smoking was still considered “cool.”
Lawmakers eventually began heeding the words of doctors who warned of the dangers of cigarettes not only to the person smoking, but to people inhaling the secondhand smoke. Laws began to be passed to restrict and regulate where people could smoke. In 1975 the state of Minnesota passed the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act, which set up “non-smoking” sections in restaurants and limited where smoking was allowed in other public areas. In 1988 Congress passed a law making all domestic airline flights non-smoking. It’s hard to believe that only 25 years ago we were cruising across the friendly skies in a pressurized ashtray.
The tobacco companies said that these laws were a violation of personal freedoms. From a 1988 New York Times article: “The tobacco industry calls the new law an intrusion on individual rights and argues that most people are satisfied with the current separation of smokers and nonsmokers. It contends that evidence on tobacco smoke on airplanes does not warrant a ban.”
Is this starting to sound familiar?
Of course, more regulations were enacted in the past twenty years that have essentially banned smoking cigarettes in most public places. Coincidentally the number of adults who smoke regularly has dropped from over 30% in 1980 to under 19% today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 440,000 people die prematurely from smoking each year, with an estimated 49,000 of those deaths due to secondhand smoke exposure. Smoking costs the US somewhere around 100 billion dollars annually in healthcare.
It has gotten to the point in American society where smokers are made to feel like second-class citizens. The vast majority of people do not smoke, and around 87% of American households are now completely “smoke-free.” Do you look at somebody outside a crowded bar shivering while they smoke and look down on them? Do you wonder how bad their hair must smell? Do you wonder how bad their breath must be? Fifty years ago, the social norms were much different. We had a culture where smoking was acceptable, and even celebrated.
What do you think our future generations will say about the gun culture in America today?
Look at the parallels – Smoking is a big-money industry with a strong political lobby that has seen its influence rapidly diminish as the overwhelming evidence says that cigarettes are deadly. When new smoking laws were passed, there was not a rush to stockpile cartons of Marlboro’s, and there was no great public outcry. The prevailing public opinion was on the side of increased regulation. Currently, 92% of Americans support comprehensive background checks on EVERY gun transaction. Instead of talking about imaginary attacks on the Second Amendment and fantasy scenarios where you and your AR-15 are all that stands between the government slaughtering millions of Americans, let’s talk about some things that actually exist, you know… in reality.
The popular anti-gun control argument is that tightening gun laws will not work. However the evidence would support that enacting more regulated access to guns would lead to lower instances of gun-related deaths. Smoking bans quickly and dramatically cut the number of people hospitalized for heart attacks, strokes and respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema. Not to dumb it down too much for the gun-nuts, but here we go: Fewer people smoking has led to fewer people dying of heart and lung disease associated with… wait for it… smoking.
Opponents cling to the paranoid “slippery slope” that new gun safety laws will immediately lead to “The Gubment” showing up on their doorstep to take away their guns. Are you still allowed to smoke? Secondhand smoke kills upwards of 49,000 people a year in this country, which is substantially more deaths than secondhand bullets cause.
On a sidenote: Please understand that when you are talking about “fighting the government” what you are talking about is shooting at American soldiers. That’s what you need your guns for? Tell me again how you are a true Patriot.
It all comes down to evolution. To a lot of conservatives, “evolution” seems like a dirty word but it is vital to the survival of our nation that we evolve on the issue of guns. Do you have a racist grandfather that still doesn’t think black people should be able to drink from the same water fountain as whites? Do you have a bigoted father that still doesn’t think that gay people should have the same rights as everyone else? Are you cool with being on the wrong side of history… again? Why does “conservative” mean that you can only conserve the status quo? Why is progress on social issues so frowned upon? Why when people talk about the need to “take America back” they mean back to the 1950’s when they could chain smoke, slap their wives, beat their children, and not have to worry about those colored folk or queers getting in their faces?
How are YOUR grandkids going to look at you when you are sitting on your porch, smoking a cigarette, holding your old rifle, still waiting for Uncle Sam to send in the troops to strip away your freedom?
–Sean Kemmerer is a freelance writer, administrator of Politics Without The Crazy Pills, can be followed @Walkofshameband, and thinks that the increase in gun-suicides can be directly linked to Taylor Swift album sales.