Health Watch: Americans Are Smoking Less

In 2005, a grand total of 378 billion cigarettes were sold inside the United States. Now, that does sound like a high number (and it is), but that number is off 4.2% from 2004. In fact, it's the lowest level in 55 years! In fact, the Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) says that this continues an eight-year decline in cigarette smoking, which resulted from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. Overall, the NAAG says that cigarette sales have plummeted more than 21% since 1998. (source)

What risk are there from smoking?
According to WebMD's "You Can Quit Smoking" Guide, cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a very addictive drug. As WebMD put it, "For some people, it can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine." Within seconds of puffing, nicotine travels to the brain, setting off some chemicals that make you want to smoke more. Now obviously, some people can control the addiction better than others. There's no such thing as blanket addiction symptoms; some need a cigarette whenever they can slightly stressed, and some can go hours and hours without a smoke.

Another WebMD article points out that smoking can cause lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. Smoking can also increase a risk for blindness, lead to a faster decline in mental function (which can help Alzheimers along), and makes your voice sound weird and gruffy. It also leads to an increased risk of lupus, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), colic, and may lead to a need for Viagra.

What was the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement about? On Monday, November 23, 1998, the Attorney General and other representatives of 46 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Northern Marina Islands, Guam and the District of Columbia signed an agreement with the five largest tobacco manufacturers. (The missing four states, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Texas had previously settled with manufacturers for $40 billion.)

The agreement was for the tobacco manufacturers to pay out big time to all the parties involved in the massive lawsuit. It also prohibited targeting youth in cigarette advertising, promotions or marketing, and barred actions aimed at promoting or maintaining youth smoking. The settlement supported legislation to limit access for youths to smokes.

The settlement also banned all billboard and transit advertising of tobacco products, in places close to schools and other locations frequented by children. It banned all tobacco advertising, promotions, packaging or labeling using cartoon symbols - but not advertisements with people - to promote their products. The Master Settlement Agreement thus killed Joe Camel, and that's why now you just see generic pictures of cowboys swinging rodeo ropes for the fun of it. You can find out more on what the settlement outlawed by clicking this link.

You can also read a summary of the entire Master Settlement Agreement by clicking on this link.

Will the overall number of smokers continue to diminish? It's quite possible that the numbers will continue to go down, but as hard as it is to imagine, it may not all be because society sees the great health risk involved with smoking. Instead, the rising price of cigarette packs and continuing legislation to ban smoking in more and more places will continue to put a kink in the smoking habits of millions upon millions of Americans. You can find out more about tobacco control by visiting the Wikipedia entry by clicking here.

Now, whether or not it's constitutional or not to ban smoking, well, we'll leave that to people who are far more knowledgeable in that area. However, after taking one more look at the risk of smoking, it's quite clear that it's better to have more people kicking the butt. And with cigarette sales down 4.2% in 2005, we're optimistic that more people will be able to quit smoking.

Where To Find Help on Quitting Smoking
- The American Lung Association Website
- Quit Smoking
- Quit4Life

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