During the middle of the twentieth century, scientific evidence published in journals linked smoking to health problems ranging from heart disease to cancer. As a result, tobacco advertising and sponsorship have been banned in the European Union since 1991. Recently, a more comprehensive tobacco products directive regulation was approved. The directive will further restrict and regulate the tobacco promotion, packaging and production processes. By driving up the costs through these policies and taxes, the EU hopes to make selling tobacco unprofitable for tobacco companies. This initiative has met some success as Japan Tobacco International (JTL), a leading international tobacco company, announced its intentions to shut down a tobacco plant in Ireland. The success of such regulation has plateaued, as no major action has occurred since 2000, when a company shut down in Britain, and tobacco use halved in France. Therefore, is it necessary to continue increasing regulation on tobacco?
Dr. Alton Ochener was the first medical professional to suggest a connection between lung cancer and smoking. Gradually, more research emerged, showing correlation between the two. Concerns with the health risks associated with smoking from the Health Services and anti-tobacco campaigns, especially second-hand smoke and risk of lung cancer, established a premise for governments to pursue tobacco regulation. As public awareness of tobacco grow, more issues related by tobacco surfaced, such as addiction due to the presence of nicotine.
Protecting minors is used to justify stricter regulation of tobacco to discourage smoking tobacco out of curiosity and peer pressure. However, there is already sufficient amount of education and governmental resources to inform young people of the health risks associated with tobacco. If someone wishes to smoke despite all the preventative work the government has put in place, it is their prerogative to do so. Since they are already informed, it is not justified for the government to take away their rights. The law also prohibits minors from buying tobacco. These pre-existing anti-smoking campaigns are effective tools of transmitting knowledge and need not to do further work.
Additionally, tax increase on tobacco serves to decrease the profit margin of the companies, as well as deter individuals from starting to smoke. Increase in cigarettes price and awareness about health issues associated with tobacco caused a drastic decrease in numbers of smokers and sales in tobacco across Europe, including Germany and United Kingdom (here and here). These trends demonstrate that current measures are effectively decreasing the rate of smoking. Therefore the EU is taking an unnecessary step to control the use of tobacco and restrict consumption. Needless to say, increase control in tobacco can also result in an increase in illegal tobacco activities. (Also, here and here)
The recently approved tobacco directive by EU focuses on attacking the tobacco industry with harsh packaging and production restrictions. Though it seeks to reach a smoke-free future, one can take a further step in considering the fallacy of increasing governmental control over tobacco purely because of the health risks associated. The government assumes the public cannot make an informed choice, justifying policies to control the consumption of substances or food associated with health problem. This results in the government being one of the “nanny states”, treating the public like kindergarten students. By controlling tobacco, the government goes into the private lives of its citizens and make decisions for them. Therefore, the argument to strengthen regulation of tobacco is flawed, as it can apply to any substance or common staple food, such as sugar. What if the government suddenly decides to “regulate” sugar because it causes obesity and is one of the “leading cause” of heart disease?
A greater restriction on tobacco regulation nowadays further drifts away from promoting the well-being of the public as the primary reason. This is highlighted by the recently approved EU tobacco regulation directive. There are more packaging restriction for cigarettes. Flavoured cigarettes are also strictly prohibited. If the foremost reason for tobacco regulation is ensuring public health, there is no need to target tobacco companies. Interfering with how tobacco companies package their cigarettes or types of cigarettes the company sells are policies that do not seek to control tobacco consumption to enhance the well-being of the populace. The core focus should be on the society. Alternatives for tobacco smoking, such as e-cigarettes, have been introduced and recommended for smokers seeking to quit. It had been a success in decreasing the amount of tobacco consumption, further challenging the necessity for a more restrictive tobacco directives approved by the EU.
It is a waste of money and effort to introduce more tobacco control when the societal and economical impacts of current anti-tobacco campaigns are already very effective. Therefore, there seems to be no further reasons to implement more restrictive tobacco regulation.
- Bentley, G. (2014, October 7). Britain’s last tobacco factory to close as JTI shuts Ballymena plant in County Antrim. Retrieved from CITY A.M. – Business with Personality: http://www.cityam.com/1412697719/britains-last-tobacco-factory-may-close-thanks-brussels-regulation
- Eurpeon Commission. (2014, April 3). Tobacco products. Retrieved October 21, 2014, from Eurpeon Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/products/index_en.htm
- Global Tobacco Surveillance System Data (GTSSData). (2010, January 21). Retrieved from Centre for Disease Control and Prevention: http://nccd.cdc.gov/GTSSData/default/default.aspx
- Stallard, B. (2014, February 26). European Union Approces Shocking Tobacco Regulation. Retrieved from MDConnects: http://www.mdconnects.com/articles/562/20140226/european-union-approves-shocking-tobacco-regulation.htm
- Verkuil, P. (n.d.). A Leadership Case Study of Tobacco and its Regulation. Retrieved from Public Talk: The Online Journal of Discourse Leadership: http://www.upenn.edu/pnc/ptverkuil.html
- Blum, Alan. “Alton Ochsner, MD, 1896-1981 Anti-Smoking Pioneer.” The Ochsner Journal, July 1999