Cigarette smoking causes over 420,000 deaths annually in the United States, roughly twenty percent of all U.S. deaths, making cigarettes the single greatest preventable cause of death in this country. Indeed, tobacco kills more people every year than alcohol, illicit drugs, automobile accidents, violent crime, and AIDS combined. And not only are cigarettes deadly to smokers; they kill nonsmokers as well. According to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the "sidestream" or "passive" smoke from cigarettes - so-called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) - is responsible annually for approximately 3000 lung cancer deaths, between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory ailments in children, and approximately 37,000 heart disease deaths. Considering the staggering social costs imposed by cigarette smoking, an outside observer might find it odd that cigarette production and consumption in this country are, to a remarkable extent, unregulated. It is true that selling cigarettes to minors is illegal in every state. It is also true that a number of states and municipalities have passed laws and ordinances restricting the right to smoke in various public domains-from government buildings and health facilities to, in some cases, private workplaces. And if one compares these levels of regulation to the level of regulation imposed on, say, bubble gum consumption, cigarette smoking seems fairly heavily regulated. If, however, one compares cigarettes with other products that are considered dangerous but are comparatively less costly to society, such as heroin or cocaine, the level of cigarette regulation seems inadequate. After all, adult smoking is legal in all fifty states. Likewise, if one compares the hands-off approach to regulating cigarette companies with the hands-on approach to regulating, say, pharmaceutical companies (many of whose products treat or even cure, rather than cause, serious health problems), tobacco companies appear to be essentially unregulated. Of the tobacco regulations that do exist, many turn out to be industry-friendly. On top of all this, until very recently it appeared that cigarette companies, unlike most product manufacturers, were effectively immune from regulation by tort law.
Hanson, Jon D. "The Costs of Cigarettes: The Economic Case for Ex Post Incentive-Based Regulation." K. D. Logue, co-author. Yale L. J. 107, no. 5 (1998): 1163-361.
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