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Discouraging Smoking, Speech Example

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Life is arguably the most precious gift we all have and the gift that we get only once. This realization drives our desire to improve the world and bring positive social change so that everyone can savor the beautiful things life has to offer. But we also know that despite being the most intelligent creature on earth, human beings do not always make rational decisions and often show poor judgment in terms of risk and benefits. If it were not true, we would not have many lives being wasted through reckless behaviors such as drug addictions and texting while driving. But one social issue that has proven extremely difficult to tackle is smoking. Even record taxes on cigarettes in states like New York or explicit warnings on cigarette packaging seem to have failed to achieve their objective. It may be that the most effective tool in discouraging smoking is education. Smokers should leave smoking and non-smokers should build strong resolve to stay clean because smoking doesn’t only hurt us but also hurt others.

The first and most important reason for leaving smoking should be our personal health. The quality of life is not only determined by how long we live but also by how healthy we are and able to enjoy the different things life has to offer. Smoking is the leading contributor to several medical conditions including heart diseases, stroke, chronic lung cancer, mouth cancer, and kidney cancer (Martin). An average smoker loses 8.3 years of life expectancy or about 12-14 minutes per cigarette (Nutri). The average number of deaths attributed to smoking stands around 443,000 per year in the U.S. and exceeds the cumulative number of deaths from HIV, illegal drugs, alcohol, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.Smoking among women also increases the probability of infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Given the frequency of health issues caused by smoking, it is bewildering that a significant proportion of the U.S. population still smokes.

Certain laws exist to prevent other citizens from the negative consequences of risky choices made by certain irresponsible individuals. The examples include law against driving under influence and speed zones to prevent irresponsible driving behaviors near schools. The same logic should also convince us to give up or stay away from smoking because we do not only hurt ourselves by also others. By staying away from smoking, we may reduce the probability of our children or friends picking up smoking habit. Moreover, even if people close to us may not be smokers, they would still pay the price of our habitdue to exposure to secondhand smoking. A report by U.S Surgeon General found almost half of nonsmoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke while American Lung Association (ALA) claims that more than 70,000 heart diseases deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths occur in the United States due to secondhand smoke. The Society of Actuaries puts the economic cost of secondhand smoke in the U.S. at nearly $10 billion annually(Information Research Lab). Even though the logic behind laws such as prohibition on driving under influence dictate that smoking should be banned, too but if the law has been slow to enforce a positive social change, that is no excuse for us to not take action.

Today, we live in America that is substantially better than the America three to four decades ago and our parents lived in America that was substantially better than that of 1920s or so. This is because each American generation has played its part to create a better future for the next generations and we also share that obligation to create a better America for future generations. This is why we are trying to tackle global warming and this is why we should reduce the prevalence of smoking so that we do not expose future generations to secondhand smoke and we also discourage them from adopting smoking by setting personal examples. When we were growing up, our elders helped shape our habits and lifestyles and by adopting smoking –free lifestyles, we will also be able to influence younger people in a positive manner. Tobacco use among parents has been found to increase the probability of their children adopting smoking (Jacobson, Warner and Lantz).When our words match actions, we enjoy greater credibility among children. We have a great opportunity now to create a culture where smoking is a social stigma because public awareness has been growing.

Even if we have been smoking for years, it should not discourage us from giving up on smoking. It is never too late to make a positive change and fortunately, leaving smoking even after years of use does carry health benefits. Even quitting at the age of 50 reduces the risk of premature death to half as compared to smokers while quitting at the age of 30 reduces the chance of premature death by an astonishing 90 percent (National Cancer Institute). Thus, leaving smoking is not only the right thing to do but also comes with real benefits.

Some people may argue that smoking is a lifestyle and lifestyle choices cannot always be made on the basis of risk-benefit analysis. They may also argue that smoking may carry health risks but it also offers them certain benefits such as helping them deal with stress and make them feel relaxed. They may also argue that smoking is a common habit among friends and not being a smoker will make them feel out of place.

The argument that lifestyle choices cannot always be made on the basis of risk-benefit analysis is flawed. One can choose to ignore the risk-benefits analysis but that doesn’t change the reality that even lifestyle choices should be subject to risk-benefit analysis. One could argue street racing is also alifestyle but the law enforcement agencies try to prevent episodes of street racing because the risks outweigh the benefits such as the thrill of speed. Smoking may offer benefits such as dealing with stress but these benefits are only temporary. Drugs such as cocaine also provide similar benefits but the temporary benefits cannot be justified by the huge costs they impose on one’s health and on the society. It may also be true that social pressure sometimes encourages one to smoke but a better alternative is to choose our company wisely. One cannot underestimate the influence of the company he keeps and moreover, true friends do not force others to do things against their will or comply with group norms.

We should stay away from smoking or give it up if we already engage in smoking because we will not only be doing a service to ourselves but also to those close to us. We have a responsibility to build a better future for the next generations and we should take advantage of the growing public awareness to create an environment where smoking is a social stigma. Smoking may offer temporary benefits but they pale in comparison to the huge financial and health costs smoking impose on oneself and the society.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. 14 November 2012 <http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/>.

Information Research Lab. Secondhand Smoke Kills. 14 November 2012 <Secondhand Smoke Kills>.

Jacobson, Peter D., et al. Combating Teen Smoking: Research and Policy Strategies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001.

Martin, Terry. Global Smoking Statistics. 28 January 2007. 14 November 2012 <http://quitsmoking.about.com/cs/antismoking/a/statistics_2.htm>.

National Cancer Institute. Harms of Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting. 14 November 2012 <http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/cessation>.

Nutri. Smoking Facts: The Facts About Smoking – How And Why To Quit. 14 November 2012 <http://www.nutri.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.facts_about_smoking>.

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