Given the known risks from smoking, what action should governments and individuals take to protect health?

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Caroline Ayanru Access to Social Work Training

English Module essay

Topic: Given the known risks from smoking, what action should governments and individuals take to protect health?

The emphasis of health promotion rather than disease prevention is recognised as we move into the 21st Century. It is against this background that the actions of governments and behaviours of individuals will be presented with regards to health risks that exist from smoking. In order to understand these actions, tobacco advertising, which plays a key role in defining behaviour, will also be examined.

Health and illness are difficult concepts to define. It is estimated that about 50% of premature deaths in Western countries can be attributed to life style (Hamburg et al., 1982). Smokers contribute significantly to this amount as they on average reduce their life expectancy by five years. To put this into perspective, each time a person smokes a cigarette, they take an average of five minutes off their life; the time that it takes roughly to smoke the cigarette. The most commonly quoted definition of health is provide in the constitution of the World Health Organisation (WHO, 1946). Yet, ironically, as recently as the 1940s, smoking was considered harmless and the general attitude was that smoking relieved tension. However, research (Smoking, Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopaedia) has since proved that cigarette smoke, which is most common, contains around 40000 chemicals, some of which are highly toxic and many of which are carcinogenic. Nicotine, which is highly addictive, is a major constituent of tobacco smoke.
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It is clear therefore that governments, in their efforts to promote health, should concentrate more on raising the level of awareness of the dangers posed to health by smoking. The most obvious direct action so far by government is the mandatory health warning on cigarette packages, which is made as strong as can be. Government also imposes high taxes on tobacco products. There is also the occasional media campaign to encourage people to quit smoking. TV, radio and newspaper advertising of all tobacco has been banned. Strict laws govern the sale of tobacco to minors. Research has shown ...

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