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Blogs of Writer, Artist, Photographer, & Caregiver Joanne D. Kiggins

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Joanne has published more than 2,500 articles and was award recipient of the 1990 Woman of the Year for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for her accomplishments and excellence in journalism and to the community. Her co-authored book, “Unforgettable Journey,” won fifth place in the Grand Beginnings romance contest. An excerpt from her WIP, “Unearthed,” placed her fifth in the Absolute Write Idol contest. Most recently, her essay, “Perseverance,” is published in the Stories of Strength anthology in which 100% of the profits are donated to disaster relief charities. Her most recent articles were published in ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest, AbsoluteWrite.com, and Moondance.org. She has a monthly freelance writing column at Absolutewrite.com. Currently, she is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Smoking and Drinking. Habit, Disease, or CHOICE? Double Standards

When Mark Pettus commented on my post about the good old days, he began by saying, he “hated to be cynical,” and ended with, “Let’s not get too nostalgic for the good old days, they really weren’t all that good to begin with.”

Mark made some very good points which in return made me think of one particular issue that has “double standards” and a reason to be “cynical” written all over it. We make choices in life and what choices we make for ourselves are our business—until it causes someone else harm.

I promised Mark I’d be back with a post and here it is. Thank you, Mark for pushing my brain into overdrive. :)

If we’re going to get cynical, let’s talk about double standards.
Let’s talk about smoking, and drinking, and choosing. Yes, I believe smoking is a choice—so is drinking. However, smoking is labeled as a “habit” and drinking is labeled as a “disease.” I believe both are choices! Both can become habits! Both can be addictive. And both can be harmful to oneself and others.

If one never picks up a cigarette and smokes, he or she has made a choice. If someone continues to smoke, that is his or her choice. The same holds true with alcohol. The habit begins when one abuses and becomes dependent on the substance. Yet, those who drink heavily are labeled as alcoholics and they are given an “excuse” because they supposedly have this “disease” called “alcoholism.” Why then is heavy use of tobacco not labeled as a “disease” and heavy smokers not labeled as “smokaholics?" What about the words workaholics or shopaholics? These are not diseases, either. They, as smoking and drinking, are compulsive needs that can be dealt with by choosing not to partake.

Yes, I smoke, and I “choose” to light those cigarettes. It’s no longer something I enjoy; it’s become a habit. I’m in the process of trying to quit this nasty “habit.” No, I do not drink, because I choose not to.

We all know that tobacco commercials were banned from TV years ago because studies show cigarettes may cause cancer. Add to that the studies that suggest that second hand smoke can be dangerous to others. Smoking has been banned in many public places because of it.

OK, I’ll go along with the banning with no problem. My choice of smoking and what it does to my body is one thing. I’m only hurting myself. If these studies are true, I go along with banning smoking in public places, because I don’t want to be responsible for my smoking harming someone else. That’s why I go outside to smoke, rather than subject my mom to the second hand smoke. What I choose to do to my body is one thing; how my choice could affect my mom or someone else is another.

Now, here’s cynical. If someone lights up a cigarette and drives after smoking, he or she is not placing anyone else at risk. Yet, when someone drinks and drives after drinking, they ARE placing themselves and others at risk.

Why is it that alcohol commercials are still allowed? Why not ban alcohol commercials? Why allow the promotion of alcohol? Why is alcohol so freely accepted?

There is report after report of drunk drivers being slapped with a DUI (Driving Under Influence). There are repeated reports of the same drivers standing in court for their third, fourth, fifth or more DUI charge. Why?

Everyone is responsible for his or her own choices. No one can stop another from doing what he or she chooses to do. But…since the government stepped in, got involved, and banned cigarette commercials, why can’t they ban alcohol commercials? Alcohol use can cause probably as many alcohol related diseases as smoking could cause smoking related diseases. BUT use of alcohol is an instant killer as well, when someone decides to drink and drive.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has this article on their site. Their concerns and questions are substantial. Why is the alcohol industry allowed to continue promoting the use of alcohol?

No, I am not a member of MADD. But, I was a reporter for many years and have taken many photographs of deadly accidents; many accidents found to be caused by someone driving under the influence of alcohol. I am familiar with ghastly accidents caused by drunk drivers and have had to take pictures of the scenes. When I was still in high school, a classmate and good friend was decapitated in a car accident right next to my driveway. A drunk driver killed him.

If those in control cannot bring themselves to ban alcohol ads, as they did tobacco ads, maybe they should force the alcohol industry to show in these ads the decapitated bodies of innocent people killed by drunk drivers. Maybe they should show the mangled bikes and bodies of children who were killed by drunk drivers. Would it do any good? Probably not. It still comes down to the fact that drinking is a choice.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) had this on their site.
The very first sentence lends value to my argument. “Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of ‘preventable death’ in the United States and produces substantial health-related economic cost to society.” The key words here are ‘preventable death’. Cigarette smoking can cause health problems, which may lead to death, but can be prevented if one chooses not to smoke or chooses to quit smoking.

Deaths caused by drunk drivers are preventable as well—if one chooses not to drink and drive. The only difference in when death happens is: death related smoking is over a period of time; drunken driving deaths can be instant, and most of the time are.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has this article on its website. Here, my argument about the labels of “habit” and “disease” are substantiated with the first sentence. “The cost and consequences of alcoholism and drug dependence place an enormous burden on American society.”

The key word here is ‘dependence’. Again, to become dependent on something is by choice. You either choose to use or choose not to use. The second sentence, “Substance abuse crosses all societal boundaries,” confirms my belief of choice. The key words here are ‘substance abuse’. Again, you either choose to use or choose not to use and abuse.

I’m sure many reading this will have their own opinions, objections, and arguments concerning my choice of words.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. This is mine: Smoking and drinking are habits. If you choose to allow yourself to become dependent on the substance it becomes a habit. Even those who attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) know each day they “choose” to not drink. Drinking is a choice they live with and fight against each day—Having Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups available to help them choose is an added advantage to help fight a habit they have the choice to begin or end.

Let the government see their choices. Why do they choose to use double standards when it comes to banning advertising? Why ban the tobacco industry from advertising? Why not ban the alcohol industry from advertising? Alcohol advertising should be banned as was tobacco ads. Let only ads against alcohol be seen by the viewing audience. Show those graphic accident scenes caused by drunk drivers.

Alcohol advertising continues on many television stations. More than $811 million is spent on alcohol product advertising on television, representing 208,909 advertisements that were placed on network, cable, and spot television. And according to this article and a report by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University, a public health group established to monitor and analyze the industry's marketing and its impact on youth, one quarter of alcohol advertising on television was more likely to be seen by youth than adults. That amount of advertising overshadows the very few ads on TV, which show opposition to drinking and driving.

I admitted I choose to smoke and I admit it is a bad habit. It’s a habit that is hard to break. But I’ll be the first to admit that smoking is not a disease. It is a choice—so is drinking. It’s also the government’s choice to allow the alcohol industry to advertise. These double standards need to stop!

I’d loved to hear your comments. Do you think smoking and drinking is a habit or a disease and/or a choice? Do you think the alcohol industry should be banned from advertising? If so, write about it in your blog, speak to your local officials, write to your congressman, and voice your opinion to your state senator. Help stop the double standards.

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Blogger Jill said...

Talk about passionate writing. Thanks for this post, Joanne. I will indeed think and blog about it.

1/15/2006 10:22 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Thanks for reading, Jill. I'll take that as a very nice compliment from one passionate writer to another. ;) I look forward to your veiws on this subject.

1/15/2006 11:25 PM  
Blogger Cici said...

Mostly, I lurk. But I have to say this about your blog...good, passionate writing.

But I think you're going the wrong way with it. Instead of adding to the increasing list of things the government controls, why not have them remove their grubby little (huge) paws from the smoking industry? Hmnn...I may need to blog this...

1/16/2006 2:54 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Christine, I see where you're coming from when you ask "why not have them (government) remove their grubby little paws from the smoking industry?" That would be my quest, however, it seems our government can't keep their nose out of anything. And once they're knee deep into something, they can't fight their way out of a paper bag to get out of it.

I think bans on anything are agaisnt our constitutional rights. I like the idea of overturning the smoking ban...but the chances of that happening are about as much as having the alcohol advertising banned.

Truth is the government should stay out of these issues totally. But...if they're going to stick their noses in, that nose shouldn't be plugged with a double standard.

1/16/2006 9:03 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Indeed, if people say smoking can harm those around you but drinking only harms yourself, they are wrong.
When some idiot leaves a bar and gets in his car after drinking and runs into me or one of my family members and someone gets killed, it directly effects me.
Very well written post, Joanne. :)

1/16/2006 9:08 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Thanks, Jeff. Always a compliment from you. ;)

1/16/2006 9:32 PM  
Blogger Dawno said...

Here's what I think about disease/habit/choice - and this is kinda off the top of my head. Alcoholics are disabled by the alcohol they drink and can't stop drinking, smokers aren't disabled by the tobacco they can't stop smoking. Now the diseases that are related to both alcohol and tobacco cause disability, but I'm talking about the use of the product.

If I'm a 3 pack a day smoker (which I'm not although I do smoke) I'm likely killing myself and, yes, subjecting someone who happens to walk thru my smoke outside to secondhand smoke. But, I'm still able to speak coherently, do my job effectively, drive my car, etc. If I drink to excess those things aren't possible. So looking at the direct correlation between the product and the immediacy of the disabling factors, I think that's why alcoholism is given "disease" status but not smoking.

1/16/2006 11:09 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

I understand what you're saying, Dawno, but the immediacy and/or the disabling factors still do not make it a disease. I do agree with your saying that it is "given" that status, though.

1/17/2006 6:47 PM