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Should Smokers Be Allowed to Sue When They Willingly Smoke?

Essay by   •  June 22, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,933 Words (12 Pages)  •  1,758 Views

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Should smokers be allowed to sue when they willingly smoke?

In 1982, the United States surgeon general's report stated that, "cigarette smoking is the major single cause of cancer mortality in the United States". That statement still holds true today. Smoking is responsible for 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths (Cancer). Just about everyone today is aware of the dangers of cigarette smoking, yet the amount of smokers continues to grow. Many people take up smoking despite the warnings and the knowledge that the habit can be a potentially fatal one. Since 1965, every cigarette box has carried a warning that smoking cigarettes can lead to cancer or worse. There are those who even refuse to quit even after finding out that they have gotten sick from it. So why is it that smokers feel that they can sue the tobacco companies once they become sick? Why should they blame someone else for choices they made knowing full well what the dangers were?

Tobacco has been around longer than the United States and cigarettes started becoming a popular product after the first cigarette-making machine was invented in the late 1800's. When they first came out no one knew about the negative health effects of them. In fact, European doctors of the time believed, the same as the Native Americans, that cigarettes could have medicinal powers. ("A Brief History"). "Researchers and statisticians began to suspect a link between smoking and lung cancer as early as 1900" (Moore). Studies continued showing links of smoking and cancer. No one seemed to pay too much attention until 1952 when Reader's Digest put out in article called "Cancer by the Carton". The article listed all the health dangers associated with smoking cigarettes, thereafter other articles came out with more studies regarding cigarette smoking. The public finally took notice, that's when it started to become clear that cigarettes might be dangerous.

Due to so many reports stating the dangers of cigarettes, in 1965, Congress passed the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, which required the surgeon general's warning on all packages of cigarettes sold in the United States. The purpose of this was to inform the public of the dangers of smoking. Then again, in 1969 the Act was further amended when tobacco companies were banned from advertising in any "medium of electronic communication". Years later, Congress again amended the Act calling it the Comprehensive Education Act of 1984. This new act forced tobacco companies to place one the following four warnings on any cigarette package and print advertising:

1) SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Smoking causes lung cancer, Heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy.

2) SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health.

3) SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Smoking by Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, and Low Birth Weight.

4) SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide (Qtd in Moore).

Congress wanted to make sure that everyone knew that the product they were purchasing might pose potential problems with their health. No one in America can say that they purchased a package of cigarettes and didn't know that they could cause problems.

The warnings on cigarette cartons aren't the only ways that we know that cigarettes are bad. From the time I was in middle school, I can remember police officers coming every year to my school to talk to us about the dangers of smoking. They would bring props with them to show us what a healthy lung looks like versus the lung of a smoker. We were told about the cons: lung cancer, bad breath, yellow teeth. We've also all seen the anti-smoking ads, the ones that show the man speaking through a voice box. The man who used to love to swim, but would now drown if he tried because of the hole in his throat. Some of us have even seen the one where the girl is going to the prom and can't have her mother there because she died from cigarette related illnesses. We've seen the ads and read the warnings, in my opinion there are no excuses for anyone to say that they didn't know.

Smoking cigarettes does not only cause illnesses, but according to the American Cancer Society, it kills more Americans that alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined. That's about one in five deaths. It's also been linked to several diseases and medical problems. Every year it seems researchers are finding more and more things to link to cigarette smoking.

Since 1969 cigarettes have been shown to dramatically increase the risk of cancer of the bladder, pancreas, esophagus, cervix, play a major role in chronic obstructive lung diseases- and has been casually linked with ailments as wide ranging as male impotence and premature wrinkling of skin (Whelan)

With all the information that we have regarding smoking, smokers still feel that they have a right to sue tobacco companies.

Rose Cipolle sued three cigarette companies in 1984, upon finding out she was dying of lung cancer. At the time of her diagnosis in 1981, she had been smoking about thirty cigarettes a day for nearly forty-two years. She decided to sue the companies because she claimed that they knowingly put out a dangerous and unsafe product, which in turn made her sick. This was a turning point because until then no one had ever sued the tobacco companies before. The case opened up the floodgates for others to sue cigarette companies claiming that they weren't aware of the dangers of smoking. In regards to this controversial issue, Dr. Elizabeth Whelan asks "should smokers be rewarded by courts for their stupidity in smoking?" I don't think they should, in my opinion.

In 1994, Mississippi filed the first of 22 lawsuits seeking to recoup millions of dollars from tobacco industries for smokers' medical bills ("A Brief History"). In the years since the Cipolle case, millions of dollars have been awarded to people who have gotten sick from cigarettes claiming that they didn't know it was a hazard. They feel that they should make the cigarette companies pay for the fact that they put out a product they knew was harmful. I believe that we make choices and that sometimes there are consequences for the choices that we make. Cigarette smoking is a choice. Many people choose to smoke cigarettes. The warnings are everywhere that cigarettes equal cancer and possibly death. I don't believe that they should hold anyone else accountable for that.

There are those who

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