August 25, 2008

In a country where health-and-safety regulations butt heads with civil rights and privacy laws, smoking is a hot topic only a few rungs below, say, abortion and gun control. What you do to your own body is your own business, cigarette supporters argue. But smoke travels, the other side answers, and innocent people are hurt and even killed. Smoking is, in a sense, a tax on the cost of health care for the whole country.

Our first Health.com/AOL Health survey asked six provocative questions at the heart of the argument. And here's what we found.

  • 47% say that smoking in a home or car around children should be illegal

  • 41% want to see smoking banned in all public places

  • 44% think that smokers should pay more for health insurance

  • 28% believe that taxes should be raised to make cigarettes $10 or even $20 a pack

  • 27% wish that all smoking scenes would be banned from movies

  • 44% think that all smoking billboards and magazine ads should be outlawed

Background: The California Environmental Protection Agency estimates that secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and up to 69,600 heart disease deaths annually among adult nonsmokers nationwide. In children, it causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, ear problems, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks, reports the Centers for Disease Control.

Still, about 25% of children aged 3 to 11 (and about 7% of nonsmoking adults) live with at least one smoker, and almost 60% of U.S. children are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke. Kids are exposed to the idea of smoking, as well, through advertisements, television, and film—a factor that Dartmouth University researchers say increases their risk of becoming smokers later in life.

Local, state, and even international laws about smoking seem to change every day, while science keeps finding new arguments against lighting up. Need more motivation? Here are 97 reasons to quit, and advice on how to break your addiction forever.

Take this month's poll
Are you more afraid of breast cancer or heart disease? Would you have your breasts removed if you had the breast cancer gene? Do you think breast cancer is caused by pollution? Is breast cancer research underfunded? Your opinions count. Take this month's Health.com/AOL Health breast cancer poll.


Related Links:
An Addiction Specialist Explains Nicotine’s Powerful Hold
Health.com Blog: Should Smoking Around Kids Be Illegal?
16 Ways to Help a Loved One Quit Smoking
Home Smoking Ban Keeps Teens From Lighting Up
Quiz: What Kind of Smoker Are You?

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