Smoking causes cancer. Smoking kills. Smoking can create problems when pregnant. Smoking damages your lungs.
Television commercials for tobacco are prohibited. Sponsorship of tobacco companies in sports events is not allowed. Most restaurants in U.S and Europe are smoke free. Many bars in the U.S are smoke free. In Europe, the word “Lights” cannot be displayed on the package because it is deceiving.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a marketing executive of Philip Morris USA. He was proud because Philip Morris USA advertises in such a way that non-smokers will never be exposed to the advertisements. How? They just send direct mail to their database of smokers.
So if cigarettes are so dangerous why are they still legal? Here are two main reasons I can think of:
1) The power of tobacco companies. Only Philip Morris International employs about 75,000 people. Imagine if tobacco was made illegal how the unemployment rates would change. Let’s face it. Tobacco companies have a lot of power, possibly inside connections and the economics are not in anyone’s interest. What is the value of money versus the value of life?
2) Government revenues. I already did the math of how much money the government would earn by an increase in tobacco tax in this post. The truth is that tobacco tax is a major source of revenues for governments. Using the excuse of cigarettes being an unhealthy option and that demand will decrease with a price increase, and taking into advantage the addiction of smokers, governments raise taxes and enjoy the benefits of the additional money. Try buying a pack of cigarettes in the U.K for example. This website shows that the tax revenues from tobacco in 2007 in England were about $10 billion dollars.
Despite the above reasons, I predict that smoking cigarettes will be made illegal in the next 10 to 20 years. Governments (especially in EU countries and the U.S) are in a slow process to prohibit smoking in any public venue. In certain places in the U.S you are only allowed to smoke in certain areas on a street. Many university campuses are trying to make it illegal to smoke on campus. The process will be slow, but the new generation is growing up in a mostly smoke free environment. Tobacco smoking will not be the norm and as it eventually fades out, it will also become illegal so that we can justify the current rising taxes.