US Laws: Protecting Citizens and Creating Harmony - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1538 Words
Date:  2023-01-29


Laws play critical roles in any jurisdiction since it acts as the guideline as to what is socially acceptable in society. The United States, like any other nation, have the constitution, laws, and regulations that regulate the conduct of its citizens. The US laws protect American citizens against abuse from the government itself, organizations and other people in the society. Also, it helps enhance the general safety besides creating a harmonious environment free from disputes. The US laws fall under three primary categories: national, state, and local levels. The constitution is the basis of all the policies formulated within the country. Within its boundaries, both statutory and common laws act as the primary source of all the regulations. This paper critically evaluates the clean indoor air laws (CIAL), its historical context, and recommendations for improvement. I agree with this law as it restricts smoking in designated public spaces. The US, therefore, should strengthen the implementation of clean indoor air laws since it protects nonsmokers from the detrimental effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).

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History and Evolution of the Law

The US Congress, according to Kasten, passed the first clean air act in 1955 (4). The law, however, was not specific on controlling exposure to harmful air pollutants. In this perspective, the Surgeon General Report of 1964 set a basis for the formulation of CIAL (Eriksen & Cerak 173). In essence, the General's recommendations point out potential health effects of involuntary exposure to ETS. Despite the recommendations, the US did not formulate laws on involuntary smoking until 1972 when the federal government adopted the Surgeon General Koop report (Eriksen & Cerak 175). The Surgeon General recommended the formulation of laws to illegalize smoking in designated public places. It argued that while individual people had the so-called "right to smoke," there were needs to protect the rights of the general public to clean air. The proposed law, in essence, would prohibit smoking in confined public places such as buses, trains, airplanes, theaters, and restaurants (Eriksen & Cerak 175).

In 1973, Arizona emerged the first state to implement the provisions of the Surgeon General Report (Eriksen & Cerak 175). The first laws formulated in Arizona recognized the fact that environmental tobacco smoke causes respiratory illnesses and blood pressure besides increasing heart rate. In 1975, Minnesota enacted comprehensive CIAL laws to protect involuntary smokers from the health effects of environmental tobacco smoke (Eriksen & Cerak 172). This step set stage for the formulation of similar laws in other states. However, California failed to implement this law after state referenda were defeated in 1978 and 1980 (Eriksen & Cerak 175). The defeat was associated with tobacco industry-funded oppositions.

After the referenda, many states focused on local policies to restrict public smoking. Many US states passed local indoor air ordinances in the 1980s after statewide efforts were defeated in California (Eriksen & Cerak 172). The US states that implemented this policy are Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Sacramento. Companies also began implementing workplace smoking policies to support state governments in their efforts to introduce clean air laws. However, the US formulated local, state, and federal clean indoor air laws in 2006 (Eriksen & Cerak 176). The promulgation of this law at each level of government boosted the implementation of smoke-free policies across the nation.

An Important Event That Led to the Formulation of the Law

The Exxon Valdez tragedy of 1989 led to the formulation of the Environmental Tobacco Smoke laws (Kasten 92). Before 1989, the US had comprehensive laws on clean air, but it did not ban smoking in public places. The amendment of the environmental protection legislation led to the enactment and implementation of tobacco smoke control laws in 1981(Kasten 92). The Congress, however, amended the law in 2006 banning smoking in public places. The Exxon Valdez had far-reaching impacts on American citizens. The tragedy involves an oil spill in California. According to Kasten, the US incurred more than $2billion on cleanup and recovery programs and thus raising concerns on the effectiveness of environmental protection laws (91).

The social outcry underlying the cost of Exxon Valdez recovery programs led to the amendments on the environmental protection act. The crash affected the quality of air and thus causing psychological trauma to American citizens. Precisely, catastrophic effects underlying Exxon Valdez oil spill woke Americans on the needs to enact better legislation to protect the quality of air. President George Bush pledged to amend the Clean Air Act of 1977 following the catastrophic effects of Exxon Valdez tragedy (Kasten 92). The outcome of the amendment was the formulation of the present-day Clean Air Act.

The State of Clean Indoor Air Law Today

Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) seeks to address the health effects of hazardous air pollutants. CAA, in this perspective, is a comprehensive federal law that regulates the emission of harmful contaminants from both mobile and stationary sources. It permits the Environmental protection Agency (EPA), among other regulatory bodies, to implement the provisions of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). One of the goals of the act is to address welfare and public health risks by regulating the release of harmful air pollutants.

Currently, the US implements state, local, and federal clean air laws. In this perspective, the CAA outlines 217 places that should be completely smoke-free (Eriksen & Cerak 172). Some of these places are bars, restaurants, and government buildings. While it addresses public health issues, the law also has direct economic consequences. The District of Columbia and all the fifty states currently implement the law. The state laws have been increasingly restrictive in controlling smoking in public places, but they are weaker than similar laws at a local level (Lee et al. 383). However, 23 states, including the District of Columbia, have clean air laws that require 100% smoke-free restaurants, bars, and working places (Eriksen & Cerak 176). Currently, the act protects approximately 47.5% of the US population from the potential health effects of environmental tobacco smoke (Eriksen & Cerak 176).

My Opinion on Clean Indoor Air Law

I agree with the provisions of the CIAL, especially in controlling environmental tobacco smoke. This law is vital for several reasons. First, it protects nonsmokers from adverse effects of involuntary tobacco and cigarettes smoke. In this case, the general public has a right to clean air in designated public places. It is, therefore, unfair for nonsmokers to suffer from chronic respiratory diseases that result from involuntary smoking in public places. As such, the clean air act is necessary to protect the rights of nonsmoking American citizens from the health effects of environmental tobacco smoke.

Secondly, the law supports the government's strategies to discourage its citizens from smoking tobacco and cigarettes. The two substances cause acute respiratory diseases, including lung cancer. The implementation of this law, therefore, help the government achieve its goal of reducing deaths, disability, and illnesses related to tobacco use. The government attains this goal by lowering children and nonsmoker exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. Thirdly, the act minimizes federal healthcare expenditure on illnesses associated with the use of tobacco. The reason is that clean indoor air law discourages smoking and thus one way to control healthcare costs on the treatment of smoking-related respiratory diseases (Levy & Friend 392).

Recommendations to Improve the Law

Clean indoor air law has effective policies that can potentially address the health effects of exposure to ETS. However, the act has weaknesses that result from discrepancies of its implementation at federal, state, and local levels. The Congress, therefore, should preempt the state and local laws to enhance the applications of the law. Preemption is essential since it empowers the federal government to control the implementation of any law. Secondly, the government should formulate comprehensive smoke-free policies rather than its current regulations that partially control environmental tobacco smoke.


Laws play critical roles in regulating human behavior and activities. The US constitution is the supreme law that serves as a guideline for political, economic, and social practices. However, parliament continuously amends laws to meet changes in society. CIAL protects nonsmokers in public places and government buildings from the effects of environmental tobacco smoke. The enactment of this law dates back to 1955 when Congress formulated the first environmental protection act. However, The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 paved ways for the formulation of CIAL law. The act is effective in protecting nonsmokers from exposure to tobacco smoke. The Congress, however, should strengthen the law by passing laws that emphasize on the smoke-free environment. Also, it should allow federal preemption on the clean indoor air law across the United States.

Works Cited

Eriksen, Michael P., and Rebecca L. Cerak. "The Diffusion and Impact of Clean Indoor Air Laws." Annual Review of Public Health, vol. 29, no. 1, 2008, pp. 171-185, Accessed 27 July 2019.

Kasten, Chelsea. "A Series of Un-breathable Events: The Clean Air Act and the Transformation of Environmentalism in American Society." (2011),

Lee, Kiyoung, et al. "Strength of smoke-free air laws and indoor air quality." Nicotine & Tobacco Research, vol. 11, no. 4, 2009, pp. 381-386, Accessed 27 July 2019.

Levy, David T., and Karen B. Friend. "The effects of clean indoor air laws: what do we know and what do we need to know?" Health Education Research 18.5 (2003): 592-609, Accessed 27 July 2019.

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