There's good news and bad news about smoking. Recent statistics reveal that consumption rates are at record lows and appear to be dropping even further. And, as those rates fall, the menace of second-hand smoke also recedes. But these positive developments come at a time when new evidence warns that cigarettes are even more hazardous than we have thought. And the use of e cigarettes, with the dangers they may pose, is rapidly increasing among teenagers (I'll deal with e cigarettes in a future post).
So to end smoking and the many costs it imposes on this continent, let alone elsewhere in the world, much remains to be done. Anti-smoking advocates point to the role that legal interventions have had in pushing down the rates of consumption. And they are right to do so. The full spectrum of such interventions has been employed: from educating the public regarding the dangers of smoking to criminal prohibitions regarding the sale of cigarettes to children and regarding smoking in public places. In addition, there were legislative restrictions placed upon the advertising of cigarettes, requirements mandating ever more graphic and explicit warnings regarding the dangers of smoking on packaging, increased taxation of cigarettes, and various attempts to use litigation to compensate for the harm done by tobacco and to deter cigarette companies from peddling their poisons.
Since this "regulatory mix" has had such comparative success it's not surprising that anti-tobacco advocates want even more of the same, especially directed at young people. But something else happened in the tobacco saga that was also critical to falling rates.