Monday, January 9, 2012

Government Regulations on Tobacco

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For years, evidence has proven that prolonged use of tobacco products can cause many health problems. Many people believe that risking the use of tobacco products should be their choice alone, and no laws should be made to hinder their use of the product. However, the increasing use of tobacco is becoming a threat to future generations. More than 11,000 deaths each year are related to tobacco use and they are entirely preventable (Kenney A05). The habit of these smokers is not only a detriment to them; they are a detriment to the general public as well. Second-hand smoke is proven to be unbeneficial to non-tobacco users, and it can cause many health problems. If something is not done to reduce the use of tobacco products, many people will not live to their potential life expectancy as non-tobacco users. A poll taken in 18 confirms that action should be taken, as it stated that seventy-five percent of all Americans believe that tobacco is a problem and that the use of it should be controlled (Barbour 11). The government should place regulations on both the tobacco industry and the use of tobacco to ensure healthier life for the general public.

In these modern times, companies know that their main audience in marketing consists of teenagers. These companies also know that to make a profit and guarantee the future of their business, they need to make an impression on those impressionable teens (“Tobacco” of 16). So how does the tobacco industry market tobacco, a proven health threat, to those teens? It’s all in the presentation. People in tobacco advertisements often seem to be good-looking, outgoing, and having the time of their life. The tobacco industry uses this image to prey on the psychological weaknesses, or as the tobacco companies refer to them, “starters” of teens (Barbour 75). The average age of a beginning smoker is thirteen years old (Kenney A05); at this time in a person’s life the above-mentioned characteristics of tobacco ads are extremely desirable in their pursuit of popularity. So after teenagers view such an advertisement, it is to be expected that some teens will think that smoking is a step towards being popular. Surveys have also shown that teens that make the decision to use tobacco use the brands most heavily advertised (Barbour 74). The most reasonable course of action in reducing a teenager’s exposure to those advertisements is cutting back on marketing. Many people would argue that parents should be the ones preventing their children from picking up the habit of smoking or chewing tobacco; but more often than not, parents are just not enough. This can be a result of various situations, such as the parent being a tobacco user them self or the teen rebelling intentionally against their parent(s). So if the parents cannot stop their teens, something has to be done to change teen’s perceptions of using tobacco. By cutting back on advertising, the tobacco industry may not be able to hook so many weak minded teenagers.

The smoke given off by cigarettes can be harmful to non-smokers as well as smokers. Second-hand smoke has known pollutants that are classified as hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as benzene, arsenic, coke oven emissions, and radionuclides. If smoke from a smokestack were to contain those four pollutants, it would be deemed illegal (Kluger 45). Many people would argue that the number of people actually affected by second-hand smoke is few (“Smoking” 1, of 14). A question to this argument is, what does it matter how many are actually affected? It’s like making the argument that murders are not a problem and should not be illegal because only minorities of people in the world are murdered in relation to world population. And while second-hand smoke may not be a pressing health threat for some, it is a great annoyance for many (Kluger 61). The argument made by tobacco users that they have a right to use tobacco whenever and wherever they want is rude and irresponsible. This statement is rude on the basis of it containing a lack of consideration for others, and a lack of consideration causes people to be irresponsible. When some of those irresponsible people become parents, they will be putting the health of their children at risk. Children of smokers are at high risk for sudden death syndrome, low birth rate, asthma, middle-ear disease, pneumonia, and upper respiratory infection (Kenney A05). A child’s health should not be compromised so someone can smoker wherever they want to. Some tobacco users even go as far to say that bans on smoking in public areas infringe on First Amendment rights (“Tobacco” 10 of 16). While most people are pro First Amendment, it should also be considered that any freedoms granted by this amendment come with certain responsibilities. If tobacco users cannot face up to those responsibilities, it is not entirely inappropriate for the government to step in and lay down the law. Tobacco users serve as a potential health threat to the general public, and they should be the people using moderation, not the non-smokers. Smoking cigarettes should be banned in public areas where people may be exposed to second-hand smoke, in order to prevent others from experiencing health problems.

Tobacco taxes should be increased as a way to discourage both addicted adult tobacco users and potential users from buying tobacco. Twenty-four states have thus far raised their tobacco tax and they have seen declines in consumption, as well as raised revenue for their state. This gained revenue is beneficial to the public as well, since it is used to fund healthcare, education, and child protection, among other things. The tobacco lobby argues that tax hikes increase the occurrence of smuggling and black-market dealings, but the 4 states that have increased their tobacco tax have experienced very few “cross-border” dealings. Retailer’s opposition to the tax is understandable, but their stand on the issue is made in self-interest. In the long run, many will benefit from lowered tobacco use (“To” A0). Tobacco users that have problems paying the tax will feel more inclined to quit, and this is especially true for teenagers. Teenagers are proven to be more price-sensitive than adults. For every ten percent increase in tobacco taxes teen tobacco use declines six to seven percent. Adult usage goes down as well, as much as three percent (Kenney A05). Tobacco users who quit may also save themselves from future medical costs, since for every pack of cigarettes they smoke they’ll end up paying six dollars in medical costs in their future (“To” A0). The extra pocket money that quitters save in a year should be enough to encourage tobacco users to kick the habit. Increasing taxes would simply nudge them into realizing the logistics of this. Increasing taxes on tobacco would discourage people from purchasing tobacco products.

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The use of tobacco is damaging to the health of the general public, whether the public partakes of tobacco directly or indirectly. Measures should be taken to reduce the availability of tobacco products so people will hopefully make the smart decision to not smoke. But if they do make the poor choice to smoke, others should not have to suffer the consequences of their choice as well. Health problems, money, and popularity are subjects that are hard enough to deal with without tobacco use complicating things further. And that’s all tobacco is, an unnecessary complication. No matter how advertisements portray tobacco use, research has proven it to not be so glamorous.

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