Tobacco Consumption in the US and Current Problem


Tobacco was first discovered by the native people of South America. After being introduced to Europe and America, it soon became really popular. For example, North Eastern American tribes carried tobacco in pouches as a readily accepted trade item as well as for sacred ceremonies. (Heckewelder, 149) Moreover, tobacco is used as a pain killer for medical treatment of physical conditions without knowing health risks of using it. Shockingly, tobacco was also used as a form of currency between Native Americans and Colonists. Figure 1 shows how the tobacco product consumption has been increasing since 1900 drastically. The increase in Tobacco use has increased the death rate among both male and female causing an implementation of policies, laws, and organizations to reduce the consumption of Tobacco (Medical Daily). The implementation of these policies has mainly been in regards to smoking is a major causative agent to 2330453169285Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: Tobacco Product Consumption in US 1900-2000. (Medical Daily)

Figure 1: Tobacco Product Consumption in US 1900-2000. (Medical Daily)

Cancer – especially lung cancer -, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, and diabetes. It also increases the risk of getting tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. The current tobacco prevalence is still high enough to catch our attention on it.

Tobacco contains tons of harmful chemicals that are contained within the smoke. The most well-known chemical that produces the addictive effect is Nicotine which is one of the harshest chemicals in tobacco smoke. The cancer-causing chemicals are referred to as carcinogens. (American Cancer Society, 3) According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, “IARC classifies a chemical such as carcinogen with sufficient evidence in scientific studies in humans, animals and/or other relevant sources to show that the chemical is capable of causing the development or increasing the incidence of cancer.” Shockingly, tobacco smoke contains over 400 chemicals, and more than 70 of them are Figure 2: Chart between smoking and lung cancer 1900-1980(Rapid Shift).

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 2: Chart between smoking and lung cancer 1900-1980(Rapid Shift).

In Figure 2 shown above, it is clear that the possibility of having lung cancer has increased drastically in correspondence with an increase in cigarette consumption from 1900 to 1940. (Wikimedia) Look back to the Figure 1 chart shown above, it is no doubt that lung cancer is one of the leading reason that both male death rate and the female death rate has increased from 1930 to 1990.

Social Factor

The cause of increase in tobacco use has deep relation with several events occurring in the 20th century within the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal agency that conducts and supports health promotion, prevention and preparedness activities in the United States, “the invention of the safety match, improvements in mass production, transportation that permitted widespread distribution of cigarettes, and use of mass media advertising to promote cigarettes” propelled the use of cigarettes greatly (CDC). The heavy increase of production of tobacco products and advertisements became the major social factor that caused people to put their attention and interest in tobacco products. Unquestionably, good marketing strategy has a heavy impact on the tobacco industry. Scoot D. Balun, the vice president of the American Heart Association once stated that “The (tobacco product) advertisements are seen in all major magazines and newspapers … billboards … stadium … on public buses, touting seductive themes that relate the use of this product to ‘success,’ ‘sophistication,’ ‘sexual attraction,’ ‘good health’ and ‘athletic activities’” (CQ Press, 10). Without an advertisement regulation, tobacco industries choose to use false advertisement to advertise deceptive information to the public.

Moreover, besides using false information to allure more customers to use tobacco products, tobacco industries combine political issues and slogan into their advertisement. According to the CDC. “targeted industry marketing and social changes reflecting the liberalization of women’s roles and behaviour led to the increasing acceptability of smoking among women.” (CDC) Overall, because these false actions and advertisements are not properly regulated by the government, using a tobacco product became a major trend.

Although there are a lot of policies that are related to tobacco use and sale, there is still high tobacco prevalence rate in the US. After knowing the health hazards associated with tobacco use, on July 1, 1862, Congress passed excise taxes on several items including tobacco. The purpose of these excise taxes is mainly for gaining additional revenue for the government during the wartime instead of health-related reason. From the mid-20th century to now, states started enacting taxes on cigarettes. Not only imposing excise taxes, but the federal law also required the tobacco industries to put warning labels on cigarette packs to inform people about the dangers of consuming Tobacco such as lung cancer and heart problems.

02818130Figure 3:Different warnings on cigarette pack, 2018(Abigail).

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 3:Different warnings on cigarette pack, 2018(Abigail).

Unfortunately, current policies cannot be served completely for the purpose of decreasing the tobacco consumption. In the research Abigail T. Evans conducted, a PhD of Department of Psychology of Ohio State University, he stated that in general graphic warning labels are more effective than text-only warnings on the cigarette packs; but low-emotion graphic warnings “backfired and tended to reduce risk perceptions and quit intentions versus text-only warnings” (Abigail). Figure 3 visually illustrates the examples of text-only warning, low-emotion warning and high-emotion warning that are used in the current tobacco market. The result of low-emotion warning Abigail proposed in his research paper clearly conveys that current policies about tobacco sale and use still have major flaws that cannot completely be served as a purpose of reducing tobacco consumption and its effects such as lung cancer and even death.

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 4: events that are related to cigarette consumption.

Furthermore, events such as the Great Depression and World War II occurred between 1930 to 1960 have a huge impact on tobacco use in the United States. Such local events and global events caused people to reach out for other necessities that they thought can reduce stress and depression, such as a cigarette. Jennifer Dahne said in her paper that the cigarette demand tends to be higher when individuals are having elevated depressive symptoms or when exposed to stress. (Dahne, 24) Cigarettes became a product that has a similar effect as a “pain killer” or something that can relieve both mental and physical stress. Figure 4 above shows how the Great Depression and World War II have a great effect on tobacco consumption per capita as well as further actions and policies that significantly decrease the tobacco consumption per capita.

From Figure 4 above, there is the indication that there is a decrease in tobacco consumption after several campaigns and policies were introduced both by the government and the social organizations, such as 1st Great American Smoke-out and policy of doubling the Federal cigarette tax. The harmfulness of using tobacco and the current rate of using tobacco still makes tobacco consumption an urgent problem to solve. Based on the statistics, more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking; and for every person who dies because the cause of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness. Moreover, with international regulations and local regulations towards tobacco use, tobacco use still causes nearly 6 million deaths per year worldwide, and current trends show that tobacco use will cause more than 8 million deaths annually by 2030 from various illnesses such as lung cancer, heart problems, and other smoking-related problems (CDC). The statistics reveal that tobacco use is still a trending problem worldwide that both government and international and local organizations still haven’t found an ultimate solution to handle it.

Another important social factor that causing the prevalence of using tobacco products is social structure. There are two different types of social structure. One is Collectivistic Societies and the other is Individualistic Societies. Collectivistic Societies are societies that have a cultural value that is characterized by an emphasis on cohesiveness among individuals and prioritization of the group over self. On the contrary, the Individualistic Societies have a cultural value that is opposite to the Collectivistic Societies. John Lang, the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service of the United States, concludes that “the strong influence of the personal utility of smoking is predicted to lead to faster adoption and cessation of smoking in collective societies than in more individualistic societies.” (Lang, 15) For example, Individuals in Individualistic Societies tend to be more self-reliant and independent. Both adoption and cessation of smoking is mainly personal decision and opinion of each individual in individualistic societies. However, because collective societies tend to put higher prioritization of the group over self, individuals are more likely to be influenced by the group. Because of this specific culture value, the smoking prevalence will either increase drastically or decrease drastically. It is a double-edged sword.

Overall, the difference in social structure and imperfect regulation policies of tobacco use and sale is the reason why tobacco consumption is still an urgent and tough problem nowadays. Current system and regulation cannot fulfil the mission of reducing tobacco-related diseases and tobacco consumption. The tobacco problem needs to be reexamined carefully and thoroughly.

Hazards of smoking: Lung Cancer

As stated above, smoking causes cancer, heart diseases, lung diseases and other health problems; one of the major deadly smoking-related diseases is lung cancer. Figure 2 above shows a clear relationship between cigarette consumption and lung cancer. Moreover, in Figure 2, although there is a decrease in lung cancer rate since 1970, lung cancer according to American Lung Association, an estimated 154,050 Americans are expected to die from lung cancer in 2018, accounting for approximately 25 per cent of all cancer deaths. In the report of cancer and tobacco smoking conducted by Carol Buck in the book The Challenge of Epidemiology: Issues and Selected Readings, concluded that lung cancer occurs more than twice as frequently among those who have smoked cigarettes than nonsmokers. (Carol) Also, secondhand smoke is also causation of lung cancer. Walk Merryman, the Vice President of the Tobacco Institute stated that, “they (smokers) should not be permitted to inflict harmful chemicals … on others who have no choice in the matter” (Clark). Based on the statistics, nonsmokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 per cent. Secondhand smoke causes more than 7300 lung cancer deaths among U.S. nonsmokers each year (CDC). The toxic chemicals in tobacco products cause more and more people, both smokers and nonsmokers, to have more chance to encounter tobacco-related illness, lung cancer and, even more, death.

Works Cited

  • Abigail T.Evans, “Cigarette graphic warning Labels are not Created Equal: They can Increase or Decrease Smokers’ Quit Intentions Relative to Text-Only Warnings” Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2017, 1155-116, doi:10.1093/ntr/ntw389
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  • Clark, Charles S. ‘Crackdown on Smoking.’ CQ Researcher, 4 Dec. 1992, pp. 1049-72,
  • Dahne, Jennifer, et al. “Depressive Symptoms and Cigarette Demand as a Function of Induced Stress.” Nicotine & Tobacco Research, vol. 19, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 49–58. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1093/ntr/ntw145.
  • ‘Economic Aspects Of Tobacco During The Colonial Period 1612-1776’. Archive.Tobacco.Org, Accessed 5 Feb 2019.
  • Government of Canada. Carcinogens In Tobacco Smoke. 2011.
  • Heckenwelder, John. ‘History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations Who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighboring States.’ (2003), p.149.
  • ‘How Scientific Causation Came To Be Solidified In The Tobacco Use Vs. Lung Cancer Death Rates Era, Relevance To Climate Skeptics Now’. Rapid Shift,
  • Lang, John C., et al. “The Influence of Societal Individualism on a Century of Tobacco Use: Modelling the Prevalence of Smoking.” BMC Public Health, vol. 15, no. 1, Dec. 2015, pp. 1–13. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2576-6.
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