Smoking Tobacco Is a Crime | Teen Ink

Smoking Tobacco Is a Crime

December 14, 2009
By cabi816 GOLD, Greenville, South Carolina
cabi816 GOLD, Greenville, South Carolina
14 articles 0 photos 1 comment

A crime is defined as, “an act or the... omission of a duty that is commanded by a public law and that makes the offender liable to punishment by that law” (Merriam- Webster). Since the 1960s, numerous reports have warned against the dangers of smoking. These published risks related to smoking are a global concern because both non-smokers and smokers face a multitude of repercussions from smoking. Smoking can be considered a crime because it negitively affects everyone and falls under several illegal acts including involuntary manslaughter, child abuse, and it desregards the spirit of the Preamble of the United States Constitution.

Involuntary manslaughter is defined by the South Carolina Code of Law as “(a) the reckless disregard for others’ safety” (16-03-60) and “(b) the unlawful killing of another without malice, express or implied,” (16-30-40). Smoking satisfieds part (a) of this definition because when a person smokes they are being reckless by disregarding the safety of others. While a non-smoker may not be near a person while they smoke, cigarette smoke in the environment can affect people who come into its contact in the future. Because a smoker is most likely not smoking with the intent to kill others, the act of smoking is not malicious in nature, and would qualify as unlawfully causing the death of another person. Nevertheless, their actions lead to the unlawful death of bystanders. Because smoking contains provisions for being classified as involuntary manslaughter, it is a crime.

People who advocate the right to smoke protest the idea that smoking is a crim because many public places enforce laws pertaining to smoking that prevent this act from occurring in public places. These laws state that people can not smoke in many specified public establishments, and additionally, smokers must smoke at least 25 feet from the entrance of a building. These laws were written with the intent to protect the general population from the effects of secondhand smoke. When smokers follow these laws, they are no longer reckless with their actions because they make a conscious decision to reduce the effects of secondhand smoke on others. This shows a level of responsibility and demonstrates concern for the safety of others.

Another population that is effected by secondhand smoke and that has less ability to protect themselves are children. This is especially true when a parent smokes and laws pertaining to public places do not apply. The South Carolina Code of Law determines child abuse to be, “an act... [that] causes harm to the child's physical health or welfare... ‘harm’... occurs when a person: (a) inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child physical injury” ( 16-3-85). Studies show that children who are raised in homes with smokers face long term health issues as a consequence of their home environment. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services states that such an environment causes asthma, infections, and death via heart disease and lung cancer. This fulfill part (a) of the definition stated because lung disease, infection, and death qualify as physical harm. Because guardians who smoke risk their child’s health, and well being, part (a) of the clause is again fulfilled. Children develop for many years after birth, and as a result of their continuing development, they are especially sensitive to secondhand smoke and are at greater risk than the average person.

A guardian may contend that their personal right to smoke is protected under the Declaration of Independence because “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights [including] Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While these guardians are responsible for another being, this fact does not revoke their right under the law to smoke. The Declaration of Independence clearly states that a person has the right to the pursuit of happiness, and the act of smoking falls under this right. If this right is taken away, it is frightening to project what other parental rights could be taken away, the right to decide where their child goes to school, to the doctor, or even what religion they can practice.

Another aspect of smoking relates to the reality that much of the United States’ population uses Medicaid for their health care insurance. This social program is supported by taxes and is thus paid for by the common tax-payer. When a patient who has a smoking related disease and is a smoker uses Medicaid, the government pays for their health care. However, the Preamble to the United States Constitution states its intentions to: (a) “provide for the common defense, [(b)] promote the general Welfare, and [(c)] secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” When the government pays for the medical treatment of a smoker, the common defense is not being protected because the government is not preventing the act of smoking but instead is condoning and enabling it. This is true because there is not a law preventing a smoker from smoking after receiving treatment paid for by tax-payers. The common defense suffers as a result because the money gathered by taxes is essentially being used to fund the continuation of harm caused by secondhand smoke. Therefore, when the government pays for treatment of a current smoker, the general welfare is not being protected which qualifies as a contradiction to the spirit of Preamble. A lack of smoking prevention could be detrimental the welfare of the country. When the population of the United States has compromised health because of smoking, the liberty of the country’s prosperity is not being protected. This satisfies part (c) of the spirit of the Preamble which was written in order to protect the future. Because the use of taxpayer money is used in Medicare to provide treatment for the results of smoking, the Preamble is not being followed in providing for the common defense, welfare, and insuring stability for prosperity.

While this is true, all citizens of the United States who make an income are required to pay taxes. This supports the idea that smokers who are on Medicaid pay for their health care sometime in their life by paying taxes. While some smokers may not pay as much as other citizens, they still have a right to receive health care regardless of their personal choices and the amount of tax they have paid. Securing liberty for prosperity does not only apply to health, education, and social programs, but also to the security of various other rights. A person who supports the right to smoke may suggest that if this right is revoked, that other rights such as women’s and gays’ rights may be revoked as well. The could be considered much more detrimental to the prosperity of the United States than the results of smoking.

Smoking can be considered a crime. The act of smoking can be classified as involuntary manslaughter, child abuse, and contradicts the spirit of the Preamble. These violations of the law can be seen when compared to definitions of these crimes presented by the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, and South Carolina State Code of Law. Because every time cigarette smoke is created someone is affected, it is difficult for a person to smoke without committing a crime.

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