Utilitarian holds that actions are justifiable if they result in the greatest possible happiness for the greatest number.As such, every human action can be said to be based upon this principle.However, there are instances where the society has accommodated practices that have proved to result in the greatest amount of harm to the greatest number of individuals.
The most notable of such practices is public smoking. Smoking is not only irritating to the non-smoker but also harmful to the smoker.
Research indicate that in America alone, smokers consume close to five hundred billion cigarettes per annum with more than four-hundred thousand deaths every year being attributed to this consumption (Slovic, 2001). With this regard, the society has every reason to invest all its energies in making sure that this practice is stopped since it is the single most preventable cause of premature death in many countries. As such, the society, through its most powerful institution, the government, is justified in not only banning public smoking but smoking in general.
The World Health Organization predict that the number of deaths as a result of tobacco smoking will rise from four million people to ten million by the year twenty thirty (World Health Organization, 1997). In other words, if smoking is not banned, many individuals are going to lose their lives. There is no doubt that tobacco possess serious health risks. Anecdotal evidence of possible harms from this habit begun to be gathered shortly after it was introduced in Europe even though it was until the eighteenth and nineteenth century that physicians started publishing observations of serious life threatening hazards (Proctor, 2004).
It was during this period that cancer of the mouth, nose and lips became associated with tobacco snuff. In France in the year eighteen fifty’s, a physician by the name Etienne-Frederic Bouisson discovered that the majority of his patients suffering from cancer of the mouth were pipe smokers (Shephard, 1982). In Berlin, Rudolf Virchow also reported the same observations shortly after (Ibid, 234). By the end of the century, cancer of the lips, tongue, mouth, jaw, nasal cavities and pharynx were so common to cancer specialists that medical students wrote widely on the topic-then famously know to physicians as “Smokers’ cancers” (Cortyl, 1897).
Despite these inherent dangers, the society has continued to tolerate this silent killer. However, it is the responsibility of the government to protect its people from exposure to any dangers. With regard to this, many governments have failed. The practice ought to have been banned immediately after the first reports but this has not been the case. Actually, tobacco consumption increased in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the invention of machines that could roll thousands of cigarettes per day (Viscusi, 1992).
Coupled with the invention of safety matches, the habit quickly became popular. Instead of the government considering the health consequences of the habit, they quickly recognized the drug as a source of tax revenue. This has continued into this period with the result of furthering the use of the drug. However, some states in the United States banned the use of the drug as they recognized the reality of its dangers but the bans became lifted in the 1920s. During this period, there seemed to be much ignorance among the majority population with regard to the actual consequences of tobacco smoking.
As such, the governments of the time may be excused on their treatment of the issue. In recent times though, there has been a stream of significant developments concerning the understanding of tobacco smoking and its harmful consequences. More understanding have been achieved with regard to secondary smoking and the consequences on the fetus when a pregnant mother engages in the habit. Very surprising and disturbing findings concerning the observed impacts of smoking or nicotine dependence on twelve to thirteen year olds after days or weeks of light smoking (DiFranza et al, 2000).
It was also discovered in the recent past that tobacco companies have been concealing the risks associated with smoking in their attempt to lure young people into smoking. All over the world, the manufacturers and merchants of tobacco have put their own economic interests above the health and lives of a million consumers to whom they sell their products. It is known that all these tobacco products contain nicotine which is unquestionably the element that is responsible for the most persistent and widespread drug dependence. There is no doubt about the fact that tobacco kills.
It accounts for one death in every ten seconds (Slama, 1995). The majority of the victims die in their prime life and if the trend continues, as have been projected by the World Health Organization, tobacco will account for one death after every three seconds. The habit did not come as a product of chance. It has been furthered by effective marketing policies of the industry that have been applied in many countries. The consumption of tobacco is expensive in the long run, not just in terms of human health but also in terms of finance.
Even with the short term benefits of the tobacco industry in mind, the net loss that is being suffered every year by the world community as a result of smoking is estimated at two hundred thousand million dollars (Stratton, 2001). This is not a small amount of money and if it could be harnessed, it would be enough to double the current health care expenditure in the developing parts of the world. However, it is the responsibility of the health care sector to create awareness on the actual dangers of tobacco use. Since tobacco is an international commodity, the war against it must therefore be worldwide.
Public health is one of the sectors that has been worst hit by the habit. With this regard, the habit directly or indirectly impacts on the national budget of many countries. The problem affects every section of the society and every age and every single member of the society faces its grave consequences. It is thus the responsibility of the government to make sure that every single member of the society of protected from death that can be easily avoided. The major reasons for the call to ban tobacco are not founded on empty grounds. They have been driven through the centuries by the concrete evidence on its health effects.
It is amazing that regardless of the centuries of research evidence and findings concerning the dangers of the drug, many countries still treats the issue with less seriousness. Cancer has been rated among the deadliest diseases. The world is trying to find ways of countering this condition but has turned its back on the actual causes. There is numerous evidence that indicates that smoking causes cancer and thus, there is absolutely no way that the society will pretend to fight cancer without addressing such issues as banning smoking.
The rise of lung cancer and coronary heart disease that were once rare was noticed in the twentieth century and an attempt to explain such increases revealed that smoking was among their causes. However, it would be wrong to assert that the medical findings and reports were understood by the public and in situations where they were published, the tobacco industries countered such claims with assurances on the safety of smoking, at times using such reports to convince the consumers to change brands.
Going by the utilitarian principle, there is no doubt that all the arguments supporting the ban of smoking should be treated with much sensitivity as the health of real human individuals is at stake. The human race does not need any further proof as to the harms and dangers of smoking and thus, every government should ban the use of tobacco so that a healthy society is realized. Tough measures should be taken against the tobacco industry as they blatantly deceive the majority into death in the name of making profits.
In the mid twentieth century, individuals involved in tobacco industry were quoted as saying that they would quit the business if it was established that it poses serious health risks to the smokers. Almost half a decade later, even with enough evidence that smoking is dangerous to ones health; the industries are still alive and making millions of shillings while the majority perish. Instead of being in the forefront of informing its consumers of the dangers, the tobacco industry has tried every conceivable deceit to cover up the dangers and win over more consumers.
This responsibility of protecting the citizens from the harmful effects of tobacco can thus not be entrusted in the hands of the business people but in the hands of the most superior institution of the society, the government. The government would thus do much justice to its citizens by banning smoking. References Cortyl, J. (1897) Du Cancer des fumeurs. Paris: Henri Jouve, (Translated by Edmond Gwan). Proctor, R. (2004). Tobacco and Health. Journal of Philosophy, Science and Law. Vol.
4 9-11 Shephard, R. (1982). The risks of passive smoking. Taylor & Francis Slama, K. (1995). Tobacco and health. Springer Science & Business Slovic, P. (2001). Smoking: risk, perception & policy. SAGE Stratton, K. , (2001). Clearing the smoke: assessing the science base for tobacco harm reduction. National Academies Press Viscusi, K. (1992). Smoking: making the risky decision. Oxford University Press World Health Organization, Tobacco or Health: A Global Status Report (Geneva: WHO, 1997).