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The Social and Political Issues of Tobacco Use

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  • 0:01 More Than Just a…
  • 0:29 Politics, Law, and Smoking
  • 2:08 Social Issues of Tobacco Use
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
We often think about the fact that smoking is something we should worry about with respect to cancer, but political, social, and religious concerns are just as important when it comes to this deadly habit. Learn about how these concerns are related to smoking in this lesson.

More Than Just a Health Problem

Smoking is often seen as simply a health issue. I'm not too worried about that since this habit is indeed such a terrible thing and damages your body in so many horrendous ways. However, I do want to show you that there is a lot more to smoking than meets the eye, and I'm not just blowing smoke here, either. In fact, smoking has had, and continues to have, political and social implications in this country.

Politics, Law, and Smoking

One of the more obvious ones is laws that have been passed around the country by politicians who have been pressured by their constituents. Smoke-free laws, also called smoking bans, have been passed for many reasons over the years. If you were alive and traveled on airplanes in the 1980s, or before, then you almost certainly enjoyed plenty of secondhand smoke, especially on longer flights. The smoke came standard with your terrible meals and uncomfortable seats.

But smoking has now been banned on airplanes for not only health-related issues but also for obvious fire hazard concerns that have indeed killed people before the ban. Now, if only we could ban ever decreasing legroom in coach, that would make things even better! Anyways, smoking has also been banned and criminalized in certain public spaces, restaurants, work, and universities in many different states and cities around the country. But so far, the U.S. federal government itself has not passed any such laws.

Many people think this is because powerful tobacco company lobbying efforts thwart the passage of any legislation that harms their bottom line. Lobbying refers to an attempt by an individual or organization to influence the decisions made by those in power, usually political figures. Despite lobbying efforts, the sale of tobacco to anyone under the age of 18 has thankfully been criminalized. But even with laws like this on the books, hundreds of millions of cigarettes are smoked by minors each year.

Social Issues of Tobacco Use

The other problem with minors is the fact that they are the group of people most likely to be influenced by social media, movies, and so-called role models. When the latest selfie or paparazzi shot of a celebrity smoking or a movie with a dominant figure smoking appears, it literally cues in the minds of minors the idea that this is okay or will lead to the same attention, fame, or power they crave and the media feeds onto them.

However, minors aren't the only easy target for tobacco use. Smoking is also an activity that is more likely to occur in people with mental health concerns. That is to say, individuals with problems such as depression or anxiety disorders are more likely to smoke. That is why it's important to address these issues through proper counseling and community outreach efforts.

Additionally, psychological factors go beyond social anxieties; they also have to do with social or daily routines. For example, smokers who have established a set time period or activity during which they smoke, such as when they go out with friends or work, find it difficult to break these habits simply because the activity itself begins to trigger the urge to smoke unbeknownst to the user. This is why lifestyle modification techniques or outreach by community organizations are important concepts in helping a person to stop their addiction to smoking.

As just one possibility, religion may come into play for some people. Some established religions condemn the use of tobacco as a result of the fact that it is so damaging to the body. Your body is sacred and deserves great care and attention - smoking runs counter to this. The other big argument religions use as a way to convince others to stop smoking is that addiction to smoking creates a dependence upon something to a detrimental degree. This runs counter to the values most religions place on freedom and dignity.

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