Monday, December 01, 2008

Cars are the new smoking


Smoking is a dangerous and expensive habit. I smoke, I've given up lots of times but I always lapse. I hope that driving my bike instead of riding around in a car makes up for it to some degree... At least I keep fit and relaxed, obesity and stress are real killers!

One of the funny things I often notice is the big "No Smoking" signs in supermarket car parks. You can drive round and round in your 4WD but don't you light up! At work we aren't allowed to smoke in the lay over in front of our building, security comes out and tells you to move away. Weird thing is that it is ok to pull up in your car there, taxis sit there with their motors turning over, people wait to pick up their friends with their exhaust pumping away and no one asks them to switch off the ignition. My little roll of dried tobacco however is a potential threat to the health of anyone trying to go in or out. Go figure.

Anyway I just found a blog post called “Cars are the new smoking.” so I thought I'd share it with you. Original post is here. Some of the highlights are below:

Society’s views on smoking have changed over the years. Smoking was once the norm. People smoked in open places and did not think twice about the health or environmental ramifications. Today smoking is proven deadly. I wonder if people’s feelings towards driving large ostentatious cars are changing. Do we now or will we later see SUVs in the same way as we see smoking today? Will we look back and see large cars being deadly to the environment and to our health? Are cars the new smoking? The statement alone boggles my brain and conjures words and images as to why, in some social circles, the two seemingly dissimilar acts are intrinsically linked.

Here are 10 reasons why cars are the new smoking:

1. Cost.

Both smoking and car ownership are expensive. Smoking cigs and driving fuel-hungry cars can burn horrendous holes in your wallet. Smokers can pay thousands a year for the cancer sticks alone, but the cost to their health is priceless. Drivers burn through thousands a year on fuel. Add the cost of the vehicle, maintenance and insurance, and your whacked with the stench of some serious cash gone up in smoke.

2. Addictive.

It took years for cigarette maker Philip Morris to admit nicotine is addictive. What about cars? One could argue that cars have a dependence on fuel consumption to function while people have a repetitive habitual reliance on cars. The increase in gas thefts certainly makes one consider how siphoning fuel from your neighbor’s gas tank could be considered addict behavior. Perhaps these fuel thieves are the new dope dealers. Drivers of gas guzzling cars are the addicts. Rather than adjust their driving lifestyle, they opt for the black market and buy the fuel stolen from their neighbors’ tanks.

3. Killers.

Smoking cigarettes will kill you. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports there are 5.4 million tobacco-related deaths every year. The situation is so deathly dire in developing nations that kagillionaires Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg have pledged $500 million to combat tobacco consumption in Asia, Africa, China, and India.

Cars are no life savers either. The WHO reports that worldwide, an estimated 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured. Automobile related deaths are so common they fail to attract media attention in favor of less frequent types of tragedy. Sorry to be all doom and gloom.

4. Preventable.

Both smoking and automobile related deaths are preventable. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes tobacco use as “the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries and an important cause of premature death worldwide.”

Car crashes are also preventable. Both the World Bank and the WHO jointly launched the World Report citing that unsafe road traffic systems are seriously harming global public health and development. The report contends that the level of road traffic injury is unacceptable and that it is largely avoidable.

5. Ostracized.

Where smokers are now treated as outcasts by being legislated and banned from practicing their nicotine addiction anywhere they please, I now see SUV drivers being sent a similar social message. Drivers of environment eating Hummers are feeling the brunt of public condemnation. Some drivers find their Humvee tires slashed, windows broken, and messages scratched into the bodies of their vehicles. The public has gone so far as to label SUV and Hummer owners as “Earth Fuckers” with minuscule member peens. Indeed, the bigger a man’s car, the smaller his dick?

6. Second Hand Fumes.

Both cigarettes and cars cause pollution in the forms of second hand smoke and exhaust emissions. Both forms of fumes contain a range of toxic substances which can seriously impact our health, including: cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma. Both cigarette smoke and car exhaust fumes are involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers and nondrivers.

7. Peer Pressure.

Peer pressure can influence car buying decisions. The notion of “keeping up with the the Joneses” is alive and well in America. Look to your neighbor’s driveway and tell me how your car measures up. Blogger Frugal Dad writes on the financial peer pressure of owning a ride rad enough to “impress strangers at a red light.” He says, “Somewhere along the line we Americans decided a car was a reflection of our wealth, a sort of mobile status symbol.” Frugal Dad fully admits that peer pressure can cause one to justify spending hundreds more a month for a “new” ride when “many times a used alternative would do just fine.”

8. Deceptive Advertising.

Car companies use deceptive practices to sell cars, trucks, and SUVs. The use of financing programs, sweepstakes contests, money off MSRP, pre-approved credit, zero down, liquidation sales, and selling below dealer’s cost have all been tested in court as deceptive practices (source). The SUV automakers have also been slapped on the chassis by their deceptive advertising in “bluring the lines between SUVs and cars.” Attorney General Charlie Crist says, “Consumers were being deceived into believing SUVs have car-like handling and performance capabilities when in fact they are more like a truck.” Too bad no one mentioned fuel consumption. Yikes.

9. Glamorized.

Cars have been featured as the stars in many a film over the decades. But it’s the glamorization and idealization of street racing and unsafe driving which bothers me most. Films like The Fast and the Furious have been blamed by media watchdogs for increasing illegal street racing (source). Others argue that films American Graffiti and Two-Lane Blacktop set these precedents decades earlier.

10. Land use.

How many miles of pavement are required to build the infrastructure to operate motor vehicles around the world? All of this land and these resources are being consumed for what?

In the words of Joni Mitchell, I do believe “they paved paradise, they put up a parking lot.”

I’m going for a bike ride now.

4 comments:

Charlotte said...

This is exactly the topic I suggested to my sister for a school essay. Forwarding this on, in the name of education!

Squawkfox said...

Thank you so much for the mention! I'm always surprised with people's response to my post. The comments section really shows how divisive this topic is. I was mostly surprised with those who support big tobacco.

I love the comic you found from Singer. Awesome. :)

quba said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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mahesh said...

I actually enjoyed reading through this posting. Many thanks.
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