Until the growing and sale of tobacco is prohibited, smoking will certainly remain legal despite the many restrictions that smokers face. It does seem ridiculous that cigarettes, with its many links to deadly lung cancer and other diseases such as emphysema; and alcohol, which can cause liver disease and other health problems, are still legal; while marijuana, which has never been directly linked to a single death from overusage, remains illegal. Such is the extreme power of the tobacco and liquor lobbies.
Many things are legal that are not necessarily in our best interest. Drinking sugary drinks has been linked with obesity and diabetes. This does not mean that sugary drinks should be illegal. People must make a personal decision. Yes, the tobacco industry has provided considerable wealth and influence with our government. While tobacco can be linked with many health concerns, it is not necessarily a direct link. In other words, every smoker doesn't develop cancer just as every person who drinks alcohol does not end up with liver disease. In this country, we have the right to certain freedoms including what we put into our bodies. The government does regulate and impose taxes to discourage dangerous activities such as smoking, but they cannot force people to quit. At one point in history, it was believed that smoking had some medical uses. Smoking does appear to have some medical benefits such as helping to prevent ulcerative colitis (http://ibdcrohns.about.com/cs/ibdfaqs/a/smokingguts.htm) and other health concerns (http://www.livescience.com/15115-5-health-benefits-smoking-disease.html). Of course, for most of us, the risks far outweigh the benefits.
One thing to think about is that there are so many things that we do that are bad for us. If the government were to ban everything that people do that is bad for them, we would have a totalitarian government. So I think that keeping smoking legal really makes sense for a democratic government. For the most part, the government should not be in the business of protecting us from our own stupidity.
Smoking has been ingrained in society for so long that to make it illegal would really create impossible an impossible enforcement situation. Just like with alcohol prohibition in the early 20th century, people would find ways around it. They do it now with marijuana and many other illegal drugs. The best they can hope to do is inform the public about the dangers adn try to keep minors from smoking to at least some degree.
I would also contend that the political influence bought by the money of big tobacco is a driving factor in keeping it legal. The leaders of big tobacco have kept big money in their families for generations, and that kind of money over a long period of time buys an incredible amount of power and influence.
In reading some of the blogs out there about smoking, it is amazing what the differences are in the ages of some of the opinions. A majority of the "baby boomers" do not want smoking banned. If one thinks about it, banning smoking legally would make many of them criminal.
There is no doubt that just like prohibiting liquor and moonshining in the 1920s, there would be undercover cigarette makers. Imagine the seventy-year-old grandmother who has smoked for 55 years having to go under the radar to get her smokes. It will not happen. No state has made smoking illegal. They will not until the tobacco companies run out of money and people stop buying the tobacco. In addition, the Native Americans are also into selling tobacco, and the federal government will not interfere there.
I do not like smoking. I despise sitting by someone who is smoking. According to the American Cancer Society,
Non-smokers who breathe in secondhand smoke take in nicotine and other toxic chemicals just like the smokers do.
Apparently smokers feel as though they live in a vacuum. I have also noticed that smokers have become more defensive about their right to smoke. If I thought it would make a difference, I would challenge people who sit in the football stands smoking with the smoke billowing down on me and others. Unfortunately, nothing is going to change.
The tobacco industry provides revenue to the government in the form of taxes. It provides many jobs which is important for the economy. Although it is linked to lung cancer and emphysema as well as a danger to a developing fetus, it is still legal. People make a personal decision whether or not to smoke. There seem to be more negatives, than positives. However, there are actual incidences where smoking is benefical. For example, it reduces the incidence of sarcoidosis and uterine fibroids. It also reduces the risk of ulcerative colitis, Kaposi's sarcoma, reduced risk for endometriosis, is a protective factor against Parkinson's disease and is an effective antipsychotic against schizophrenia. Apparently, nicotine interferes with various diseases as an anti-inflammatory drug. Nicotine is also an estrogen inhibitor and provides a benefit to the reproductive system of women.