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Smoking: The Bane of Society

Although most of the advertisements that appear on billboards and TV and in magazines and newspapers are at least partially misleading, cigarette ads win the prize for the most unpardonable irresponsibility and deceptiveness. Daily we are bombarded with images of beautiful, smiling men and women--carefree and in the best of health and spirits--smoking a Marlboro, a Virginia Slims, or whatever other brand a particular ad happens to be promoting. In this age of increased health awareness, when the physical dangers of smoking are universally known facts, I am astounded by the ever-growing number of heavy smokers, especially among high school and college students.

While these advertisements certainly do their part in drawing young people to cigarettes, sometimes I wonder whether simple peer pressure is not an equally effective motivator. Since students are often persuaded by their peers that smoking will not only make them part of the "in group" but will also provide them with an "escape" from the pressures of daily life, it seems likely that they will remain completely oblivious to the scientific discoveries of the past 40 years. Desiring to be popular and "cool," they actively choose to ignore the evidence which proves that smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer, preferring instead to proceed along a path to addiction and, possibly, premature death.

Although their decision to jeopardize their health is, as many would say themselves, their own business, they do not have the right to cause harm to passive bystanders. Studies have proven that second-hand smoke can be as dangerous and destructive as first-hand smoke, demonstrating the seriousness of the threat to non-smokers who are frequently in the company of smokers. Parents who smoke strike me as especially irresponsible, since their children have no choice but to breathe the polluted air that fills their houses.

Gradually, cigarettes seem to be losing their popularity among certain segments of the American population. One of the most positive signs is the recent legislation in California, banning smoking in restaurants, workplaces, and other enclosed areas. Still, cigarettes are more popular than ever among the nation's young people, who generally believe that smoking is the "cool" thing to do. My hope is that future anti-smoking laws and stiffer taxes on cigarettes and tobacco companies will eventually eliminate this filthy habit from mainstream society. Only then will our country actively take the initiative in making the world a cleaner and healthier environment for the next generation.

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