June 28, 2011
The government is launching a new anti-smoking campaign with very realistic, quasi gruesome and definitely shocking images of the devastation smoking can have on the human body and soul. These images will be printed on packages of cigarettes.
There is a national public consensus that smoking is addictive and a risky behavior. It is estimated that approximately 20% of adult in America are smokers. We most likely all have family members, friends and colleagues who smoke and we may be smoking ourselves. For transparency purposes, I am an ex- smoker, now addicted to the nicotine gum!
According to the American Heart Association smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Thousands people die each year of heart diseases and lung cancer caused by smoking. According to the National Cancer Institute cigarette smoking causes an estimated 443,000 deaths each year, including approximately 49,400 deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke.
The Healthcare cost of treating diseases caused by smoking is staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention smokers costs $96 billion a year healthcare costs and $97 billion a year in lost productivity. Smoking puts an unfair economic burden on other because of limited medical resources.
The good news is that the prevalence of smoking has been in steady decrease over the years.
What has ethics to do with smoking we might ask? Well, smoking is definitely not a virtue; some consider it to be a vice (a bad habit).
Smoking is a personal decision and an expression of one’s freedom. Yet the consequences of that decision impacts more than the smokers themselves. Furthermore, governments’ efforts to dissuade from smoking and encourage smokers to quit, whether by anti-smoking campaign, banning smoking in public areas and public education through the media, should be applauded. These efforts have proven to be effective and have saved lives and money.
The ethical issue, I believe is one of freedom versus responsibility. Where does my right to smoke end and where does my responsibility to those that surround me and to society begin? Do I truly believe that I am my “brother’s keeper?” Obviously, that determination has to be made on an individual level
Freedom without responsibility can lead to dire consequences.
As Charles Kingsley, the British author and social reformist, once said:
“There are two freedoms:
The false, where a man is free to do what he likes;
The true, where he is free to do what he ought.”