SOCIAL PROBLEM: PUBLIC SMOKING Introduction Smoking in public places is a serious social problem that places the lives of smokers and the non-smokers at a risk of different health complications. Although public smoking has been made illegal in different nations, it still exists surreptitiously in certain locals, and it is indeed paradoxical to consider that some hardened and chain smokers would rather pay the charge of smoking than get rid of their habits. Public smoking has been a challenge, affecting both the developing and the developed nations, due to the dangers it poses to the smokers, non-smokers and the environment. Statistics indicate that smoking behavior is prevalent among the youth, who account for more than 60% of most countries population. There is an estimation that about 85% of the youths in the middle and tertiary colleges started smoking before attaining the age of 20 years. Among them, 45% started smoking below the age 15 years, 35% below 13 years and 20% below 12 years respectively . Over the years, the number of people engaging in smoking behavior has on the increase thus raising the concern from all involved parties to address the issue before the issue gets out of hand to contain. Public smoking has become a significant social problem due to its effects on the lives of the public and the smokers. Effects of smoking on the smoker The principal effect of smoking on the smoker is health related. Cigarettes contain a chemical substance called nicotine, which is responsible for addiction. This component is also responsible for causing cancer and other heart related diseases. When a smoker is diagnosed with cancer or other heart related diseases, the family is highly affected. In most cases, families have to sell their property to cater for the medical needs of cancer victims . Prolonged use of cigarettes is known to affect the normal operations of an individual’s liver and lungs, and ultimately reading to death. Economically, the smokers suffer from taxation that is imposed on the drugs. This in because cigarette taxation is high as the governments take it as a measure to discourage smoking. This affects the income of families and might affect the ability of the smokers to meet family needs especially when they are not employed. This leads to family suffering with the children being highly affected. When taking out insurance covers, smokers pay high premiums, which has a negative effect on the income of the family. For smokers, who are in employment positions, their career suffers tremendously from the effects of smoking. This is because smoking affects the optimal production of an individual at the work place. Many organizations have attributed low employee productivity due to smoking. To resolve this issue, organizations have adopted the use of smoking cessation strategies geared towards helping employees stop smoking. Effects of smoking on the non-smokers Non-smokers too are at risk because every time they inhale the smoke, they may consume more of the caffeine than the real smokers may. The smoke that is exhaled by smokers is believed to be highly concentrated than what the smoker keeps in the system. “Cigarettes continue to exact an enormous toll on health in the United State, and, increasingly, through the world” . Banning of cigarette production and sale smoking protects the health of smokers and non-smokers. Long-term exposure to thick tobacco smoke increases the risk of contracting lung cancer. Environmental tobacco smoking significantly increases the death toll rates resulting from lung cancer. Passive smoke increases a person’s susceptibility to asthma attacks. Tobacco smoke depresses a person’s immune system and thus making them more vulnerable to bacterial infections . Continuous exposure to second hand smoke worsens asthma symptoms and may increase the number of asthma attacks. The smoke causes respiratory passage irritation and increases sensitivity to asthma triggers. Pregnant women who are exposed to the smoke have a higher chance of delivering babies with asthma and lung problems. “Smoking is estimated to cause 30 percent of all cancer deaths, 21 percent of all deaths from coronary artery disease, and 82% of deaths are because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” . Causes of smoking Smoking is not an innate behavior that one is born with, but it is a learned behavior from the environment. This fact has ruled out the idea that smoking is an attribute of genetics within the family. Studies have shown that there are many reasons that influence individuals to smoke, but the main reasons among youths include the following: Peer pressure: The behavior people exhibit or learn is profoundly influenced by their immediate environment and the people they interact with daily. Previous literature postulates that social interactions play a pivotal role in influencing behaviors individuals portray in an event or an action. The bottom line behind this predisposition is the fact that the utility an individual obtains after executing an action is measured by the response of other people in a peer group . This implies that youths engage in deviant behaviors such as smoking to seek acceptance in peer groups. In order to gain acceptance in such groups, one is supposed adopt the behaviors of the group. It is also evident that if a given behavior is common among group members, one will conform to the same behavior. This articulates that most youths are influenced through peer pressure to engage in smoking and not through their own choice. Influence of Media Media plays a crucial role in facilitating economic development in the 21st century. It has created a conducive platform for generation of ideas, innovativeness as well as inculcates a culture of creativity among the youth. The influence of media has become prevalent with the advancement in science and technology coupled with internet availability across the board. Companies over the years have continued to advertise their products and services with the sole aim of increasing their sales volume. Through the media, they have managed to target potential consumers to their products, form alliances and partnership with other companies as well as maintain their image and reputation. In a similar respect, tobacco industries have involved media in marketing their products to the public especially among the youth who form a larger population in the society. Tobacco industry has been using the social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter to continue creating awareness among the consumers. The features in the advertisement are attractive to the youths in because they tend to use certain celebrities that are linked by most youth thus making them purchase the products . The youth are sensitive to any information disseminated through the media and as such, they are compelled to buy cigarettes thus leading to smoking. Depression and Stress from the environment The youths face many challenges ranging from economic, political, social and academic issues one of the issues that are contributing to high level of stress among the youth is the lack of employment. The issue of unemployment has been declared an international concern because most youths in both developed and developing nations are unemployed. The main reason why unemployment rates are on the increase is that there are fewer jobs created by the government compared to human labor available. It is evident that more than 45% of students graduating from local universities have no access to employment. The government in collaboration has escalated the issue by only hiring employees with more than five year experienced in a given discipline. This has denied youths a chance to secure employment and exploit their potentials. Based on such predisposition there is a high probability that youths develop psychological problems, which later lead to stress and depression. In order to unchain themselves from such predicament, youths resort to smoking of cigarettes and abuse drugs thus affecting their normal life. Alleviation of smoking as a social problem The habit is smoking is extremely addictive and difficult to stop. Many addicts who try to stop the habit face adverse withdrawal effects. It is difficult for the smokers to adjust to life without smoking. Although some smokers have been successful in quitting the habit, it is an uphill task, and in most cases, the process is gradual. However, there are different strategies that can be beneficial in alleviating the problem of smoking. Banning public smoking of cigarettes, which can help to support smokers in a bid to make them quit the habit, is a worthwhile endeavor. The move would not only help smokers to lead a healthy lifestyle, but would also protect the health of others, who do not smoke but consume the smoker from the smokers within the environment. The ban would embark on protecting the community from the dangers that smoking poses to heath and other implications that the smokers may be ignorant of or may not be aware of. College students are a principal target of the tobacco industry as potential, young customers. Peer group influence plays a significant role in escalating the problem. Life problems, lack of mentorship and few guidance and counseling sessions in institutions are some of the factors that can lead to smoking among students and staff in various institutions . The college students are falling to this habit in large numbers. Many colleges and universities still permit smoking, regardless of dangerously high smoking rates among college students. Around 30% of the students are smokers. In this case, it is necessary to establish mentorship and counseling to help the smokers in the process of quitting, and to educate the nonsmokers on the dangers of smoking. The government should come up with strategies to cut down on cigarette production and implement taxation strategies that would see the prices of the cigarette increase, and reduce smoking. Due to the chance of the smoking habit to start at a young age because of peer influence, the government should ensure that students at the high school levels are well educated on the negativities of smoking. Conclusions Public smoking is a serious social problem due to the negative effects it has on the lives of smokers and nonsmokers. Smoking is a significant cause of many heart and cancer complications, which are a burden to their families. It also affects the productivity of smokers in the work place and places at an economic disadvantage, as they have to pay high taxes on cigarettes and high premiums on insurance policies. This had adverse effects to the economic welfare of individuals and their families. To stop the social problem, the government should ban smoking in public places, implement taxation strategies that would reduce cigarette production, and offer guidance to students, who are at a risk of starting the habit. 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