The Alliance of Boulder County
on Tobacco and Health

Do Tobacco Addicts Have a "Habit"

We keep seeing popular accounts in the media to throughout the tobacco control literature that dismiss people using tobacco as having "just a habit," i.e., " smoking habit," "social habits," "take up the habit, " "they fall back on old habits," "glamorizes the habit," "hooked on a habit that kills 400,000 Americans a year," "kicking the habit," "smokers took up the habit."

Is that all there is to this activity? Sad to say, absolutely not. It is time we admit openly and in all public accountings, that repeated tobacco use, which is driven by its very addictive drug nicotine - which is recognized as being as heroin - is a real and serious drug addiction. It is an addiction to a drug with many of the mental and physical problems associated with cocaine or heroin that kills its user and very importantly - causes serious problems to outright injuries for nonusers.

We are now seeing recognition by medical researchers that more than some 50,000 nonsmoking Americans die each year from health problems caused by or aggravated by secondhand tobacco smoke. Nowhere else in our society are we so blase or unconcerned about such a horrendous death toll of innocent bystanders.

Repeated tobacco use is an addictive self destructive activity that the addicts are not taking comprehensive personal responsibility for. In about any other context, such an activity would bring on repeated calls for extensive medical and/or psychological intervention. Where do we see any such calls for such intervention on this subject?

The emphasis on the vast majority of the calls for tobacco control amount to little more than "we need to save the poor smokers from their own foolishness."

It happens that tobacco use is an activity that directly and immediately harms all innocent bystanders. Yet we see little more that some mild hand-wringing about the problem.

There are people with health conditions that require they avoid tobacco smoke. A person who has to worry about having a few minutes of consciousness upon opening their apartment window is too often ignored as though somebody's drug fix is more important than their well being or even their life.

We have a federal law, the American Disability Act, that says the social amenities of our society must be accessible to people with any of a wide variety of health conditions. Yet, in reality, we live in a society where people with health problems that require they avoid second hand tobacco smoke do not have access to a lot of so-called public places in our supposedly enlightened society.

Now it is coming to light that time after time, people who have tried to apply the ADA to obtain smoke-free housing, such as in HUD government sponsored housing complexes. And the majority of these very reasonable requests have been ignored to outright rejected. Which amounts to legalizing some drug addict's "right" to injure innocent bystanders! It makes the ADA little more than an intellectual feel-good exercise when it comes to truly helping handicapped people with a "socially inappropriate" health condition.

It is worth keeping in mind the definitions of habit and addiction -

Habit -
A condition, appearance, attire, character, disposition, conduct, behavior.
Addiction -
Having an uncontrollable craving for an addictive drug beyond medical need or under conditions harmful to society.

Tobacco use is an addiction and not a habit!

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