Social Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Why in the US does tobacco get more of a bad rap than alcohol?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26801points) January 27th, 2011

Does it seem to you that societally in the US tobacco is treated as more repugnant than alcohol? You don’t see tobacco companies sponsoring race cars, and their ads in magazines and TV have long been gone. You cannot smoke anywhere really, not even in bars; certainly not planes and trains. Brewers and bottlers of alcohol still get to sponsor races cars and boats, etc, it is still served on jets and boats. And TV characters drinking all the time or getting drunk are not complained about as a TV or movie character smoking. Smoking has been made to seem so dangerous and unhealthy when I can never recall on the news anyone t-boning another car or running down and killing cyclist or pedestrians because they were over nicotined. More people die at the hands of drunks or because alcohol was involved than smoking so why is smoking suck a scourge? Is it because American loves to get drunk more or that the makers of alcohol have better lobbyist?

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39 Answers

coffeenut's avatar

because second hand smoking kills someone slower than second hand drinking….. costs more in the long run

marinelife's avatar

Second hand smoke means that using tobacco affects more than just the user. It kills people.

iamthemob's avatar

I’m not going to get on the second-hand smoke kills bandwagon…

…but, when you smoke, it does directly affect those around you. In an extremely unpleasant way. And the furniture. And your clothes. And their clothes. And their hair.

You have to throw a drink on someone for the alcohol to do that. And then you have less to drink.

john65pennington's avatar

It may be the harm of the many chemicals found in cigarettes.

Alcohol is…......well, alcohol. We pretty much know this and how it effects our body.

Not so, with cigarettes and its vast variety of chemicals.

snowberry's avatar

I suspect that if the tobacco people bought to smoke were actually PURE tobacco, there would not be such a huge problem. They put lots of nasty garbage in there which makes it worse and far more habit forming than pure tobacco smoke.

Of course, it still would stink and mess up other folk’s lungs and stuff, but it would not be as bad.

xjustxxclaudiax's avatar

Alcohol in moderation is good for a glass of wine. Would having a cigarette once a day improve your health?

xjustxxclaudiax's avatar

I smoke hookah at least 3 times a week for about an hour each time. There are pros and cons to it. Some people say its safer than smoking cigarettes, and some people disagree…I think its worse because of the fact that we’re inhaling more smoke in one sitting BUT it has less toxic chemicals than a cigarette…and also only .5% nicotine…some don’t even have nicotine. I see where your going about the unfairness of cigarettes and alcohol, and I agree…alcohol shouldn’t be advertised as such a good thing when it kills people…their advertisements should be band too.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Ah, @Hypocrisy_Central, this is something we agree on. I have always wondered this myself. People love to call out tobacco smokers and say they are awful people who are ruining everything and killing everybody. I am quite sick of hearing “Well, second-hand smoke harms other people.” And yet, a drunk driver will kill you faster than any second-hand smoke. Someone who drink 20 beers a day is an alcoholic. Someone who smokes 20 cigarettes a day may just be a normal American. A heavy smoker doesn’t destroy his/her family but a heavy drinker can destroy his/her family. Nobody says, “Alcohol will kill you if you drink too much,” which it will, but everyone calls out the smokers for the murderers they are.

I find it quite interesting that people think that someone drinking alcohol doesn’t affect anyone around them. I beg to differ. When I lived in a college dorm, I couldn’t sleep on the weekends for all the loud, drunken people on campus. More than once, I had to look after a friend of mine who was so drunk that he/she might pass out in the street. I had to guide drunk friends home. I had to stop them from saying the kinds of things to people twice their size that they normally would not say. I guess I could have just let them pass out in the gutter or let them taunt the 250 pound hockey player but, quite frankly, I wasn’t too keen on having a friend end up in the hospital or jail if they were underage which, often, they were.

When someone gets alcohol poisoning, man, it really sucks. They didn’t know their limits. Poor them. If someone gets cancer after years and years of smoking, well, they had it coming and they deserve no sympathy or help. It’s okay to not want to be with someone because they smoke but it’s not okay to not want to be with someone because they drink.

You want to know why all this is? It’s because everyone drinks. Everyone is expected to drink. If you tell someone that you don’t drink, often, people try to get you to drink. People try to get you to drink more. If you tell someone you don’t smoke, everyone’s happy and not a single smoker will get you to smoke tobacco, anyway.

Edit to add: I knew that in posting this, a lot of people would attack me and be angry with me. I am prepared for that. I would ask that when responding to my post, you keep the insults to a minimum and try to present your argument in a cogent, respectful way.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@KatawaGrey Even though I’m quitting smoking, I totally agree with you. It has pissed me off countless times that people I know who drink (more than 1 glass of wine) on a very regular basis have griped at me “You really need to quit smoking; it’s so dangerous”. It irritates the hell out of me that drinking too much is so much more acceptable than smoking.

I can not get behind the argument that drinking does not affect those around you. Because of my father in law’s alcoholism and beer induced ignorance, my daughters learned to say “Goddammit” and “Fuck” at very young ages, in proper context. (My oldest said “Goddammit” to her baby doll when she was pretending to clean her imaginary poopy.)

Alcohol does affect other people. Alcohol almost ruined my brother’s marriage. Alcohol almost killed my husband when he was younger. Alcohol has killed several of my friends from my old high school. Alcohol can be just as dangerous as smoking, no matter how you spin it.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Having lost some loved ones to alcohol, and none to smoking, I’m with @WillWorkForChocolate and @KatawaGrey on this. Smoking is yucky, yes. Secondhand smoke is very probably a certain amount of damaging, yes. (And before all the studies get cited and linked and thrown at me, let’s remember that those studies usually only focus on the 2nd hand smoke, and not the other lifestyle factors of the affected. But that’s not where I’m going here). Alcohol is a much greater mood altering drug than nicotine, people behave with a greater degree of change when drinking than when smoking. That will affect the people around them. There are quitting smoking programs, but none as public as AA. To my knowledge there are no “Nic-Anon” groups for families of smokers. Very few women (or men, just to be fair) fear for their lives if their addicted spouse stops off to buy a pack of smokes. And having “one smoke for the road” will not significantly increase your impairment while driving, thus endangering everybody else.

tinyfaery's avatar


faye's avatar

I know so many women who lived with smokers for 40, 50 years. The smokers are gone but the wives live to 85, 90, and one is 95. My father, uncle, brother smoked in our house and my mom passed away at 86. I poo-poo the second hand smoke thing a little. I have no resp problems and was exposed from birth.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@faye: I was exposed from conception and I’m doing all right. ;)

xjustxxclaudiax's avatar

Alcohol introduced us germs and made us realize that the cause for us getting sick back in the days was because of germs, beer also started refrigeration….sry thought it was some good pointers…I’m watching it on the discovery channel while intoxicated lol.

FutureMemory's avatar

Both deserve equal vilification.

snowberry's avatar

Although I agree with @FutureMemory, there ARE laws against public drunkenness and laws against drinking and driving.

There are NO laws that say it’s against the law to threaten someone’s health by smoking. My husband and I BOTH have damaged lungs—his worse than mine. I have seen him go to bed after a good dose of cigarette smoke, and I know his life has been shortened by prolonged exposure to that pollution.

Yes, people, second hand smoke is pollution!

Because of our health, and simple common sense, (or maybe good fortune), my husband and I do not socialize with either people who smoke or drink in our presence.

I have no patience with self centered people who think it’s hypocritical to hate smoking more than drinking. At least there are a few prosecutable laws against drinking, while smoking in a no smoking area will get you nothing more than a dirty look or being asked to smoke somewhere else. Get a life!

KatawaGrey's avatar

@snowberry: Do you live in the country in a house far away from your neighbors? Do you eschew cars and other combustion based vehicles? If you can’t, do you wear masks and have a supply of clean, untainted oxygen with you when you have to interact in any kind of setting that may have some kind of smoke in it? If not, you are irritating your lungs on a regular basis anyway. You are right, smoking is not healthy for anyone but my point was that alcohol can be equally as devastating but no one cares. It is illegal to drive drunk but it is not illegal to be an alcoholic. If someone gets drunk on a regular basis and beats his/her spouse or children, he/she can be charged with assault, but will that person be legally compelled to stop drinking? Is it a violation of someone’s parole if they have a beer? I’m sorry you and your husband have bad lungs, but the point I and some of the people on this thread were trying to make is that it is patently ridiculous to say that all smokers are awful people and that smoke kills sure, it does, but it takes a helluva long time to do so and ignore the dangers of other substances, specifically alcohol. Smoking is not a good thing, I’m no saying it is, but calling us selfish because we hate that people think it’s okay to drink in excess but not okay to smoke at all is unfair and, yes, hypocritical.

snowberry's avatar

I didn’t say it’s not OK to smoke at all. Smoking where other people cannot avoid breathing it is inappropriate, and someone who smokes in a non smoking area is being hypocritical. (Surely you can see that.) Plant your label on someone else.

tinyfaery's avatar

That’s a lot of hostility. Geesh.

snowberry's avatar

Yeah, well this place can oooze hostility if the wrong person decides to make you their target. Sometimes I get more than my share. Been inappropriately flamed a few too many times. Sorry for the upset.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@snowberry: I didn’t mean for it to appear that I was flaming you. I was merely trying to explain my position more clearly. This an issue that many people myself included have strong gut reactions to. I do apologize for any perceived hostility towards you.

snowberry's avatar

I have lived in some of the more “smokey” states. What you say here “You cannot smoke anywhere really, not even in bars;” is not true of many places I have lived. In fact some of the places I’ve lived were populated by what I would call militant smokers.

It was hard to find a restaurant that was not smoke filled. And bars? It was impossible to find a smoke-free bar. It all depends on where you live. So your perception that it’s hard to find a place to smoke depends on where you live. A few years ago we went to a Renaissance Fair. It was outdoors, and to get in you had to pay what seemed to us was a small fortune. We left early because the smoke haze was so bad we couldn’t breathe. Go there if you want to smoke with impunity.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@snowberry: Why would you continue to be nasty at me? I apologized and you responded with an assumption and several barbs. I’m sorry you have bad lungs but that is no reason to be angry at me. I never said it was hard to find a place to smoke nor do I smoke myself. I don’t understand why you would continue to be angry at me.

iamthemob's avatar


I’m confused – if you don’t socialize with people that drink in your presence…why are you going to bars?

bkcunningham's avatar

@snowberry if you answered this already, I apologize. Were you or your spouse ever smokers? Did you grow up around smokers?

snowberry's avatar

@KatawaGrey and @bkcunningham I did not intend to be rude. I was writing this post, and suddenly had to hurry away. Because I had spent so much time on it, I posted it before I really read it through. Please accept my apologies. My mother was a smoker. It was her intention that smoking would shorten her life, and she talked about it freely. She got her wish and died of emphysema and pneumonia.

In the above post I was referring to this in the original question: “You cannot smoke anywhere really, not even in bars; certainly not planes and trains.”

bkcunningham's avatar

@snowberry I didn’t think you were being rude one little bit. I accept your apology although no offense was taken on my part whatsoever. I was just curious. I know many former smokers and people who watched loved ones die because of smoking who are vehemently opposed to smoking.

snowberry's avatar

Yeah, that’s me! You can’t watch someone choose to die by inches and not have strong opinions.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

My take is though smoking maybe more offensive alcohol is way more dangerous. Second hand smoke might be more dangerous but I can avoid it to a great extent. If someone is smoking by the fountain and they won’t stop, I can always move over to the sculptured art and get away from them. The second hand smoke will not affect me unless the exposure is unremitting. To be exposed to someone’s second smoke for a few moments several times a month even is no biggie to me. I have a worse time trying to get away from noise pollution with them youngster blasting their music; that is harder to escape.

I think smoking is a nasty habit only because the smell and the smoke permeate just about everything. I don’t let people smoke in my car or home because the ash seem to get everywhere and over time the smoke leaves a film on everything. Not to mention the smell of butts in the ash tray. I never feel threaten by smokers.

Drunks and alcoholics are another thing. My neighbor had to take over a year worth of DUI classes because he crashed into a friend’s car trying to drive home so drunk he could not even make it down the stairs without falling and busting his head open. He told me to guess how many times a person drives drunk before they are caught. I said 15 to 25 times, he told me in class they said a person on average drive drunk or seriously impaired more than 80 before they are caught. Second hand smoke may pose a danger to me but I can see who is doing it and get away, by the time I notice that other driver is drunk it maybe too late. The danger that drunk people behind the wheel poses to me is immediate, not only to my but my car and anyone in it. If I am walking I may not even have that much of a chance. Yet in the media and such drinking is more “you can’t have fun if there is no liquor there”. The open house party when the parents are away with a kegger is lauded as some rite of passage and not the foolishness it is. To me drinking has more of an immediate danger than some guy puffing away in a bar or elevator, I can walk away from him/her but with a drunk driver I maybe carried away in a bag.

mattbrowne's avatar

Alcohol in moderation isn’t harmful as long as people do not drive.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – I feel like the same argument can be applied to tobacco.

mattbrowne's avatar

Well, here’s the difference:

The liver turns C2H5OH into H2O (pee) and C6H12O6 (fuel) which turns into H2O and CO2 (being exhaled completely) when we move our body. Nothing remains.

The liver turns C10H14N2 into various metabolites as well and they leave our body. Nothing remains. So far so good. But tar accumulates in the smoker’s lungs over time and damaging them through various biochemical and mechanical processes.

Ergo: we can’t apply the same argument. Unless you were talking about e-cigarettes.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – This really all depends on what you mean by harmful and moderation, however.

Moderation in the case of smoking (since we’re really only talking about smoking here) may mean doing it less than moderation in terms of drinking. Having an occasional cigarette may mean one a week, whereas the occasional drink could mean four a week.

And for me, harm really requires not that there be only some form of objective negative impact on the person – even if it aggregates overtime and is irreversible. It must really result in some negative impact on the person that they are conscious of.

My problem with the argument is really that the statement is objective whereas the underlying elements are pretty subjective.

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – Moderation means that both psychoactive substances (alcohol and nicotine) don’t do any harm. This still leaves the accumulation of tar.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – The problem is that you’re assuming that the accumulation of tar is a harm in and of itself instead of something that needs to manifest itself in some way as an adverse health effect.

I’ve never heard the requirement that moderation negate harm, also – moderation is simply an attempt to control for the negative consequences of overuse or excessive use…

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – You might be correct. Maybe a jelly doctor can clarify this matter. My expertise here is limited.

iamthemob's avatar

The more I think about this, though, the more I wonder whether any substantive difference in the behavior warrants such disparate treatment.

There is no objective benefit to either – but we consider drinking a social activity, whereas smoking makes one a social parriah.

mattbrowne's avatar


“Historically doctors have promoted alcohol for its perceived health benefits and most recently for protection against coronary heart disease. There is evidence of cardiovascular benefits from drinking 1 – 2 drinks per day; however, the health benefits from moderate intake of alcohol are controversial.”

iamthemob's avatar


My grandmother was prescribed smoking to help her lose weight after childbirth. The medical evidence for health benefits of alcohol is more along the lines of loose correlations than experimental.

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