Negative Externalities from Cigarettes and Second-hand Smoke

Cigarette consumers vary greatly regarding age and culture, yet most people who consistently consume cigarettes ultimately become addicted due to nicotine. Younger generations are notorious for buying this commodity in order to appear cool, which ultimately turns into a habitual purchase as a coping mechanism, while older generations typically have developed an addiction to smoking. The tobacco industry is a relatively strong one that is willing to conceal the obvious health risks associated with smoking.

One external cost that has historically not been taken into account  would be second-hand smoke and its associated health risks. It is worth noting that the adult population of American smokers has reached an all time low. From 2005 to 2013, the quantity of smokers decreased from “45.1 million to 42.1 million” (1) despite the US population increasing over the last decade. Possible contributions to this overall decrease include the increase in the prices of cigarettes, raising the taxes of cigarettes, and more “smoke-free” laws (1). Although, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there is still more progress that must be made since “over 5.5 million kids who are alive today will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases” (1).

There are many dangerous consequences that are directly related to the tobacco industry’s main negative externality (second-hand smoke) especially for children whose bodies are still developing. The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report from 2006 declared that second-hand smoke is a “known cause of low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, middle ear infection, and other diseases” (2). One of the most thought-provoking things about second-hand smoke is that these health issues that can arise from the exposure to it are preventable for children, and this is something that society has begun to recognize. Now, women are more informed about the dangers of smoking while pregnant, and this is crucial to targeting second-hand smoke exposure. Also, timing is another factor because studies have shown that the sooner the amount of second-hand smoke exposure decreases for a child, the less likely the child is to develop an addiction to smoking as a teenager or adult.


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