My grandpa was a smoker. Whenever I walked into his house or was near him while he smoked, it reeked, and I started coughing up a lung. He stopped smoking due to abdominal pain while visiting the hospital for appendicitis. Although he had to have his appendix removed, we are thankful he is alive and has quit smoking. In an article on the CDC’s website titled Health Effects of Smoking, it states “Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. [It] causes 480,000 deaths each year… more than the following causes combined: HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, and firearm-related incidents.” We all know that smoking damages the user, but some of us need to realize that smoke from cigarettes is dangerous to the people that aren’t smoking.
Secondhand smoke is the smoke that comes out of the burning end of a cigarette. It is very harmful to people even if they aren’t smoking the cigarette. According to SmokeFree, a program by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, “It [Secondhand smoke] contains over 7,000 harmful chemicals, at least 250 of which are known to damage your health… [and] it has more than 70 toxic chemicals known to cause cancer.” Because it contains so many ruinous chemicals, secondhand smoke should be avoided. They suggest ways to prevent people from inhaling the smoke. The best way is to simply avoid smokers and places that don’t prohibit smoking and tobacco. However, it is impossible to completely escape secondhand smoke.
With so many people smoking, it makes it hard to avoid smokers entirely. An article by Debra Goldschmidt for CNN on November 19 of 2015 stated, “Fewer than 15% (14.9%) of U.S. adults currently smoke, according to new preliminary government statistics”. That totals around 40 million adult smokers nationwide. Even breathing in just a small amount of the fumes they release is damaging to the body. Some of the negative side effects of inhaling secondhand smoke according to the CDC on March 5 of 2014 include coronary heart disease, stroke, increased risk of heart attack, lung cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, and increased risk for children of bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma attacks, ear infections, and breathing problems. These problems are great excuses for people not to smoke and yet they still do. The main reason is most likely that cigarettes are addictive to smoke.
Of the many chemicals in cigarettes, nicotine is the one that hooks a smoker. According to an article in February of 2013 for the New York Times by Harvey Simon, a Professor of Medicine for Harvard Medical School, “Nicotine is the chemical in cigarettes that makes them addictive. Higher levels of nicotine in a cigarette can make it harder to quit smoking. Recent studies… found that the amount of nicotine in cigarettes has steadily increased in the past decade.” Most of the people smoking cigarettes probably realize that it is detrimental to their health and others’, but their minds’ craving for nicotine makes them continue smoking anyway.
A possible solution could be the government regulating the level of nicotine with the end goal being its elimination. Without the addictive substance, the cigarettes have nothing to give the user a pleasure sensation, they taste terrible, and there are no positive health benefits. Then there would be no reasons for smokers to continue smoking. This solves the problem of secondhand smoke by eliminating its main cause.
This solution sounds so easy, so why haven’t we done it yet? The answer is money. Many cigarette companies make lots of money due to the amount of smokers and the high cost of cigarette packs, so we fear standing up to them. However, we have started making progress. According to an article on May 4 of 2016 by Patrick McGreevy of the LA Times, “Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed a pack of bills that will raise the smoking age in California from 18 to 21, restrict the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and expand no-smoking areas at public schools.” This is a small change, but it gets the ball rolling. Our nation is heading in the right direction to solving this problem. We just need to have the courage to do what is right and beneficial to the public instead of sitting back and being afraid of corporations with lots of money.