Smoking tobacco has been around for centuries. The tobacco industry has been going strong in America since before our country was really a country. The first tobacco company opened its doors in 1760 in New York City. The profits of the industry helped to secure our country’s freedom during the revolutionary war. Whether we like it or not, tobacco has played a large role in getting us where we are today. Whether good or bad, the tobacco industry and the smokers who support it have both helped and hindered us.
Smoking Benefits Society in Many Ways *
One of the biggest ways smoking benefits society is the sale taxes of any tobacco product sold in the Unites States. Both the Federal government as well as state, county and city government, all levy taxes on tobacco products. Residents of some states pay upwards of $4.00 or more in taxes alone per pack of cigarettes. This money is used to boost the revenues of the state and help to offset the cost of medical care, schools and other programs.
The sale of tobacco products also helps to boost the government revenues through the taxation of the profits of the companies who manufacture and sell the products. In agricultural areas in the south, tobacco is a leading cash crop. The industry employs hundreds of thousands of workers across the country and abroad. Large tobacco companies earn billions of dollars each year from the sale of tobacco products, including cigarettes, pipe tobacco, cigars, snuff and smokeless forms of tobacco, not to mention electronic cigarettes.
While the tobacco industry does offer these positive benefits, the other things that cigarette and tobacco use offer are not as pleasant or as rewarding. In fact, they can be almost frightening when you take into consideration the staggering amount of money spent on healthcare for tobacco related illnesses and subsequent deaths that occur. This doesn’t include the negative impact on the environment or the millions of dollars spent each year on cleaning up after those who smoke in public.
Healthcare Industry *
The healthcare industry is one of the first big conglomerates to reach out and thank you for smoking. Smokers not only keep doctors and other healthcare professionals in business, they create hundreds of new jobs each year. Medical researchers and non-profit organizations who raise money to find the cures for tobacco related illnesses would all be out of a job if everyone would just stop smoking. As long as people continue to smoke or use any of the other tobacco related products, there will always be positions open in the healthcare industry.
From surgeons to nurses, to CNA’s to janitors who clean the rooms, hospital and medical staff who care for individuals with chronic heart disease, diabetes, COPD or any type of cancer, cigarette smoking and tobacco use will always guarantee them a job. Individuals who have smoked for several years often end up with a mixture of chronic illnesses that have either been caused by their smoking or made worse by it.
Insurance companies are another big winner. People often pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in health insurance premiums only to be struck down in the prime of their life by a heart attack or stroke. While some insurance companies are forced to pay out large sums of money for the treatment of tobacco related illnesses, the tobacco companies themselves often pay incredible sums of money to cover lawsuits and other claims made by both former smokers and healthcare professionals.
Cleaning Companies *
Cleaning companies and manufacturers who create solvents and cleaning products also make an incredible amount of profit from individuals who smoke. People often forget that cigarette smoke is a solid. It attaches to anything that it can stick to. Carpets, furniture, painted walls, wallpaper, ceiling tile, clothing, hair, skin and windows. Individuals who smoke in their homes have heating and cooling units that also collect the ultrafine particles that become airborne in cigarette smoke.
Carpet cleaning companies must use special detergents to remove the sticky tar that is left behind on carpets and other flooring surfaces. Homeowners who smoke also purchase a variety of chemical cleaners to remove the tar from surfaces throughout their homes. Most drapes and large curtains must be dry cleaned to remove the yellowish-brown stains that often appear near a smoker’s chair or in areas where smokers congregate.
Environmental Impact *
Smoking also has a dramatic impact on the environment. Even though there are ash and cigarette butt receptacles in most public areas, cigarette butts and other tobacco related debris still find their way on the ground. Rain washes the chemical contaminants into sewage systems, drainage ditches, as well as into streams and other public waterways. Nicotine was originally used as a pesticide and has been known to have lethal side effects since the early 1800’s. Introducing it into the environment can have a devastating impact on both animal wildlife and plants in areas where it is allowed to accumulate.
Airborne contaminants from cigarette and cigar smoke also pose problems, especially for individuals who do not smoke. It is believed that tobacco use has led to over 100 million deaths in the 20th century alone. This number includes individuals who died from exposure to second hand smoke. Individuals who have never smoked themselves, but lived with smokers or were exposed to environments where smokers spent their time all have an increased risk of contracting a tobacco related illness. The CDC states that almost 480,000 deaths each year can be associated to exposure to second hand smoke.
Airborne contaminants reach far beyond the human standpoint. Chemicals that become airborne can have an impact on both plant and animal wildlife in outdoor areas as well. Humans are not the only living beings affected by the dangers of second hand smoke. The environment and everything in it suffers as well. Even after an outdoor area has been thoroughly cleaned, the residue from the tar and nicotine exposure can linger for days afterward.
Funeral Homes *
One of the main benefactors of the smoking and tobacco epidemic are funeral homes. It is estimated that at least 80% of COPD related deaths can be attributed to cigarette smoking or some form of tobacco use. Funeral homes make millions of dollars each year taking care of the final arrangements of individuals who died due to tobacco related illnesses. One estimate states that tobacco kills almost half of the people who use it. While this number may seem high, there are over a billion tobacco users across the planet and almost six million of them die of tobacco related illnesses each year. The numbers are adding up with funeral homes and caretakers getting all of the business.
No matter how you look at the situation, tobacco use is a multi-billion dollar industry. Some people walk away rich from the profits, while others who actually use the tobacco end up fighting for their lives and often losing the battle. We are all affected. You either use tobacco products or are exposed to them. Some may be a part of the lucky few who can reap the financial rewards, but they are few when you compare their numbers to those of individuals who are living with the consequence of several years worth of smoking.
No one can really be thanked for smoking. Even those who reap the financial rewards of working for a tobacco company has lost a friend or loved one to the use of tobacco. It isn’t pleasant and can be very ugly to watch. Death from a tobacco related illness can leave a body broken and damaged, a shell of the vibrant person they used to be. One thing a tobacco related death can do is to teach the person’s friends and family members the value of clean, fresh air and to hopefully make them think twice before picking up another cigarette.