Tobacco is defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as: ‘A substance prepared from the dried leaves of a tobacco plant. It can be chewed and smoked in cigarettes, cigars or pipes’ (“Tobacco”, 2019). Whilst tobacco remains a legal drug, the physical ramifications from using it can be catastrophic and lead long-lasting impacts on the smoker, their family and community. Tobacco is often perceived as a better drug compared to methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the harm of tobacco use. It will look at three initiatives in Australia that have been implemented to curb the minimisation of harm associated with tobacco use. The chosen three initiatives are; education programs, mass advertising programs and changes to government laws in regard to smoking. The Australian National Drug Strategy Framework will examine these initiatives and discuss which pillar of harm minimisation each initiative addresses: demand reduction, supply reduction or harm reduction.
Tobacco is a legal drug made by drying the leaves of the tobacco plant. The tobacco plant makes a chemical called nicotine. The chemical nicotine isn’t excessively harmful or cancer-causing like people believe, but it is highly addictive. It is classed as a stimulant which means it speeds up the messages that travel between your brain and the rest of your body. Before it’s common use for smoking, tobacco had been used as a stimulant and medicine for the past 2,000 years. Medical News Today (2018) stated that by the end of the 19th century, politicians and lawmakers had begun to notice the harmful effects of nicotine and tobacco. By 1890, laws had been passed banning stores from selling nicotine to minors (Felman, 2018). Tobacco is most commonly smoked in a cigar or cigarettes but can also be chewed, although chewing tobacco is not commonly done in Australia. The harm associated with tobacco use can be catastrophic and can have a high cost of disease that a lot of people cannot recover from.
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The harm associated with tobacco use can affect the user and everyone around them for years to come. To just name a few, there are financial harm associated with tobacco use, physical harm such as cancers, asthma and the physical aspects that come with dependency to tobacco and smoking. The ‘four L’s model’ adapted.by Ron Roizen, an American sociologist, adapted a shorthand model designed for people to consider the four major aspects of a person’s life that can be impacted by drug use. This model will be used to consider the aspects of a person’s life that can be impacted by the use of tobacco. The first of the four L’s is liver which is all physical and psychological problems caused smoking. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, these physical problems can include 16 different types of cancer including lung, oesophageal and mouth cancer to just name a few, lung issues such as emphysema and bronchitis, cardiovascular diseases, bone health, men’s fertility and increases the chance of women miscarrying and developing type 2 diabetes (“Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking”, 2019). Not to mention the mental health issues that can come with developing the previously mentioned illnesses or caring for someone who has contracted one of these illnesses. The second of the four L’s is lover which stands for the area of relationships with family or friends. Smoking for this area can put strain on relationships particularly if there are financial problems, or particularly if one person has quit smoking yet their partner still smokes, which will make it hard for the person who had quit to stand their ground and not relapse. The third of the four L’s is legal which can be the legal ramifications associated with smoking such as fines for smoking with children under the age of 16 in the car, littering the cigarette butts, fines for stores selling tobacco products to people under the age of 18 or smoking in a non-smoking area. The last of the four L’s is livelihood which can be the problems associated with employment, study or financial. There are huge financial problems associated with smoking such as the rising cost of cigarette packets, the fines associated with smoking in places you are not supposed to, the medical costs when you develop any of the physical illnesses attributed to tobacco use. A way to take all of these areas into account to help the user is to minimise harm associated with all these risks.
The harm minimisation approach does not condone drug use but acknowledges that some people will continue to use alcohol and other drugs, therefore it incorporates policies which aim to prevent or reduce drug-related harm. Australia’s National Drug Strategy is a government response that aims to reduce and prevent harm caused by a number of drugs such as alcohol, tobacco and ice. It is a 10-year strategy that is a framework for the government that looks at reducing the harm of specific drugs on three different pillars: demand reduction, harm reduction and supply reduction. Demand reduction is defined in the National Drug Strategy as ‘preventing the uptake and/or delaying the onset of use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; reducing the misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in the community; and supporting people to recover from dependence through evidence-informed treatment’ (“Department of Health”, 2019). Supply reduction is defined by the same source as “preventing, stopping, disrupting, or otherwise reducing the production and supply of illegal drugs; and controlling, managing and/or regulating the availability of legal drugs’ (“Department of Health”, 2019). Harm reduction again by the same source is defined as “reducing the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of drugs, for the user, their families and the wider community” (“Department of Health”, 2019). One initiative that the Australian Government has implemented to address these pillars in regard to tobacco use is to