Tobacco companies are public enemy No. 1 in America, and they have good reason to be. Smoking-related illnesses kill about 400,000 people each year. As a result, every newspaper mentions the results of another lawsuit, another report, another admission about the deadly effects of smoking. Many college students have joined the crusade by writing letters and posting fliers decrying the evils of smoking.
But through all the noise, one issue remains unresolved: Tobacco is not the only killer drug on the market. In fact, there is one other controlled substance that many would argue is more of a threat than even the biggest cigar: alcohol.
The alcohol question exposes the hypocrisy of many anti-tobacco advocates. They are willing to restrict, even eliminate the drug they don’t want, but all the while they crave another. They seek to create a law that affects everyone but them, while at the same time keeping their interests intact.
Drunk driving kills more than 14,000 people a year. True, those numbers are lower than those associated with smoking, but the nature of drunk driving deaths makes them that much more meaningful. Developing lung cancer or another disease resulting from smoking can be prevented, either by stopping smoking yourself or by helping someone you live with break the habit.
But being killed by a drunken driver is completely random and unpredictable. Innocent motorists are in danger when someone chooses to drink. And drunken driving isn’t the only harm that results from alcohol. Other dangers include domestic violence, firearm accidents and the Exxon Valdez tragedy. If not for alcohol, these problems would be significantly reduced, if not eliminated. Smoking endangers the smoker; drinking endangers everyone.
So why is it that Americans are up in arms about Joe Camel and Philip Morris, but no one gives a second thought to keg stands and beer bongs at student parties? It is always easier to regulate others than to control oneself. That’s the definition of hypocrisy.
The remedy to this hypocrisy is simple: Either go all the way, or don’t go at all. Tobacco should be controlled, and regulating the attempts to get people addicted is an admirable idea.
But in order to make a difference, people have to be willing to place rules on themselves and control their own behavior in addition to everyone else’s.
Andy Rohrback’s column originally appeared in the May 5 issue of The University Daily Kansan.