In the past few decades, smoking has gone from status symbol to vice. It is undeniable that tobacco use causes health problems such as cancer, emphysema and cardiovascular diseases. Smoking-related illnesses have led to nationwide regulation, and nearly every state now has smoking bans in at least several cities.
In Colorado, smoking has been banned from workplaces, public restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, and now regulations prevent smoking outdoors except in certain areas at such places as Pikes Peak Community College and some military installations. Smoking is a well-known health risk. But the state should not be allowed to interfere with our free will, particularly as it pertains to the personal choice to smoke.
The right to exercise free will within certain limitations is what has made this country a worldwide symbol of freedom — land of the free and home of the brave, right? Although the argument of free will may seem somewhat fallacious to defend the choice to smoke, it is still an important element.
For hundreds of years, people in this country have enjoyed smoking with little worry. From beginnings in colonial America to the bebop of the 1950s, smoking has been largely accepted as a social status symbol. It wasn't until the 1960s and '70s that we became aware of the health risks associated with smoking. Educating the public on smoking-related health hazards has led to a significant drop in the number of tobacco users. However, despite knowing the dangers, many people still choose to enjoy cigarettes.
Although many people may think smoking and tobacco use are atrocious, their opinions should not interfere with individuals who smoke. Lobbyists from anti-tobacco organizations have persuaded politicians that smoking should be heavily regulated and banned in public. Consequently, for personal gain many politicians try to represent the non-smoking majority, leaving smokers unrepresented and appallingly considered inconsequential.
Smokers should be equally represented to avoid smoker discrimination, though it is apparent the tobacco industry should not be involved in such a role. American democracy calls for citizens to advocate for themselves and exercise their rights. So to properly represent smokers, people need to stand up for themselves and express personal opinion.
In today's world, it is hard for many people to restrain from cynical skepticism toward both the government and economy. Many seem to think smoking bans are a sign of local government taking progressive control, but that is not entirely the case. It's fairly simple: The man isn't trying to put us down, just waiting to hear our voice.
The only plausible reason one view overcomes its opposition is simply by making a more dominant case. Every day, in every media format, many voice their anti-smoking opinions, but seldom do people advocate smoking. Naturally, the anti-smokers prevail, and smokers sit around complaining without attempting to change it. If the rights of smokers are to be protected, the smokers must voice their opinions.
Smokers do not enjoy having to walk long distances in the cold or the heat to enjoy a habit, however harmful to the health it may be. It is understandable why things have gotten to this point, as many smokers do not proactively exercise democracy even though the solution is in their hands, along with their cigarette.
Change is only obtainable when people educate themselves and learn to exercise the constitutional rights given to us as citizens. Only through intelligent debate and logical problem resolution can we hope to pass laws equal to everyone.
Smoking regulation is but one small problem that can be fixed with democracy's fundamentals. Our only hope for resolution comes from education and exercising our rights. Unless people learn to stand up for their beliefs within our constitutional rights, there is no other choice but to conform to the ideas of those who voice their opinions.
Ethan Cabral is a student at Pikes Peak Community College.