Social Control of Tobacco and Alcohol
Tobacco and alcohol Consumption of tobacco and alcohol has long been proven to be harmful to one’s health, however it should be considered one’s liberty to smoke or drink and such acts are not considered “illegal” under laws. However, many countries have implement social control mechanisms in regulating smoking or drinking behavior, which raises controversy in the sense that smoking and drinking could be seen as “norms” in social gatherings.
This essay is divided into two parts: the first part attempts to justify the need for social control for tobacco and alcohol using various sociological theories and studies; while the second part describes the mechanism of social control on this issue in the context of Hong Kong in detail. Definition of Social Control Before justifying the need of social control for smoking and alcohol consumption, it is necessary to understand the definition of social control.
The Oxford Dictionary of Sociology defines social control as social processes that regulate behavior of individuals or groups into conforming to norms and values in society. Edward Ross was known for pioneering the concept of social control, he defines it a purposive ascendency over individual aims and interests through definite and organized means to uphold social interest and function (Ross, 1986).
According to Black (1976), social control includes the definition of deviance as well as the responses to deviance; while Cohen (1985) claimed that social control is an organized response towards deviance; while Meier argues that there are three functions of social control: serving as a description of social processes, mechanism to ensure compliance and social stability, as well as a method to study social order (Meier, 1982). Justifying Social Control Hobbes on Social Control
In Leviathan (1651) by Thomas Hobbes, he assumes that men are all equal and selfish, and such selfish desires drives men into a state of war – where human beings pursue their own gratifications and interests as they saw fit without considering the rights of others, thus giving rise to conflicts and chaos in the absence of a sovereign power or laws to regulate social order. Hobbes argues that in the state of nature, there is no concept of morality. Thus, under the fear of death, people would be willing to come together and to form a sovereign power, known as Common-wealth, submitting their liberties in exchange for safety and sustainability.
Tobacco and Alcohol Applying this theory in the case of tobacco smoking, without social control, people who are free to pursuit satisfaction from smoking as they saw fit, without considering the threats they pose to the physical wellbeing of themselves or others. Conflict between men arises. Under the assumptions that men desire a commodious living and fear death, it calls for social control via common-wealth on the behavior of tobacco smoking or drinking. However, despite the rise of common-wealth, people are still tempted to disobey laws in the absence of a coercive system of punishment.
Thus, under Hobbes’ theory, there should be a formal social control mechanism that compels people to conform to norms and rules. John Locke on Social Control In The Second Treatise on Civil Government (1690) by John Locke, he proposes the concept of the State of Nature – a state with full liberty within the laws of nature. Locke assumes that men are reasonable, equal and independent before the law, and no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.
Tobacco Under Locke’s theory, social control on tobacco can be justified in the sense that smoking harms both the smoker as well as people around the smoker via second-hand smoke. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in United States, people who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a 20-30% higher chance of developing lung cancer, and there has been an estimated 3,400 deaths of non-smokers a year by lung cancer in the States that is caused by secondhand smoke.
In Hong Kong, according to the Hong Kong Cancer Registry under the Hospital Authority, lung cancer has been continuously ranked top of the list as the most common cancer in Hong Kong. This violates the state of nature when the smoker imposes a threat to the health of others. Locke argues that every man should have the right to punish the offender, who declares himself as violating the laws of reason and common equity, and poses danger to the preservation of mankind (Locke, 1960).
Thus, in the name of sustaining the lives of men, this calls for the set up of a social contract, in which men comes to a mutual agreement in regulating the “deviant” act – in this case, tobacco smoking for the sake of common good. Alcohol Alcohol plays an important social and cultural role in society. For example, from the perspective of Chinese medicine, alcohol can be used as traditional health products to cure diseases or sooth pain; or in social gatherings or collective celebrations, consumption of alcohol can lighten up the social atmosphere, making people more relaxed, talkative or sociable.
However, controversy arises when alcoholic substances causes harm on one’s physical well being or bring about accidents that harm other’s lives. Under Locke’s theory, every one ought not to harm another’s life, health, liberty or possessions, and everyone has the right to punish transgressors of the law (Locke, 1960). Thus, social control on alcohol can be justified because consumption of alcohol is known to affect one’s judgment, awareness and consciousness and often triggers alcohol-related harms and accidents.
According to statistics from the Transport Department, almost 900 vehicle accidents resulting in personal injury were due to alcohol consumption, with 24 fatal cases. From this statistics, it can be concluded that alcohol consumption raises the possibility of traffic incidents, thus endangering the life of other people. Thus, according to Locke’s theory, it is necessary for people to control and regulate alcohol consumption for the preservation of human lives and social safety. Differential Association Theory
Apart from Locke’s theory, Edward Sutherland’s differential association theory can also justify the need for regulating deviant behavior. According to Sutherland, deviance is learnt through social interaction with other people, mainly via primary or close social groups (Williams & McShane, 1998). Such learning includes criminal patterns and techniques, motives as well as attitudes of criminals (Williams & McShane, 1998). In the case of drinking and smoking, people often drink because they hope to socialize and this can be learnt from various social settings.
Social control of drinking can be justified in the sense that younger generations are exposed in settings where they can learn or develop such unhealthy habits, for example, hanging out in bars or with street gangs. Thus, it is necessary for some form of social control like minimum age for drinking to prevent teenagers from developing such habits at a young age. According to a population health survey conducted the HKSAR government in 2004, there is a growing trend of underage drinking in younger generations due to peer pressure.
Thus, there is a need for social control mechanisms to prevent young teenagers that lack maturity from developing unhealthy habits at a young age, which would increase their risk of addiction as well as raising the risks of potential health hazards resulting from such behavior. Apart from concerns for teenagers’ future, from an economic perspective, there displays a need to regulate smoking and drinking. For example, smoking and drinking often results in cigarette buds and glass bottles disposed on Hong Kong streets, adding to economic burden of Hong Kong government in cleaning Hong Kong’s streets and maintaining the image of Hong Kong.
Social Control Mechanisms in Hong Kong A. Formal Social Control Formal social control can be defined as mechanisms implemented by governments to regulate people’s behavior so to ensure conformity to social norms and legislations. Examples of formal social control include government policies, criminal laws and legislations. Measures to control availability Controlling the availability of tobacco and liquor is the key gatekeeping measure to control supply of such products in Hong Kong. In terms of tobacco, under Section 15A of the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance in Hong Kong, it states that selling or giving of any form of tobacco products as means for promotion to anyone under the age of 18 is strictly prohibited, and anyone who is convicted of such an act could be fined up to HKD$25,000. In terms of alcohol, under the Dutiable Commodities (Liquor) Regulations (Cap. 109), a license issued by the government is required for restaurants or clubs to sell any form of liquor at the premises. It is also stated that no licensee is permitted to sell liquor to people under the age of 18.
Yet, there is currently no restriction on the sale of alcohol for off-premises purposes. Measures to control marketing Marketing is another factor that directly influences consumer consumption, the government thus makes use of negative marketing strategies for tobacco and alcohol products so to raise the public awareness on negative impacts of smoking and drinking. In terms of tobacco, under the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap. 371), it is statutory for all cigarette packs to contain a standardized health warning illustrating the side effects of tar and nicotine, e. g. “Smoking causes lung cancer”.
Also, price markers or price boards of cigarettes in retailers are limited in number and style, as well as are compelled to bear a healthy warning up to the size of one-fifth of the boards. Both acts holds the cigarette producers and shop sellers responsible of ensuring there is a negative effect on marketing of cigarettes, failure to comply to the laws would result in fines up to HKD$50,000. In terms of alcohol, under the Broadcasting Ordinance (Cap. 562) and the Broadcasting Authority Ordinance, (Cap. 391), there are restricted codes of practice of media concerning advertising liquor on air.
For example, advertising of alcohol beverages shall be broadcasted to target audience only, and are forbidden during four to eight in the evening to prevent any children under age of 18 to be exposed to such advertising. Also, it is stated under the ordinances that broadcasters shall not attempt to lure young people into picking up the habit of drinking, and shall not portray the act of alcohol consumption as appealing to young age groups. Measures to control pricing Regulating the prices of tobacco and alcohol products is one of the most effective ways to deter consumers with elastic demands from smoking or drinking.
According to the World Bank, raising the price of cigarettes are the most effective way in deterring potential smokers from smoking due to their high price responsiveness. It is said that raising the price by 10% would successfully lower tobacco consumption by 8% in low- and middle-income countries. In terms of tobacco, duty is charged to the sellers and incorporated into prices of cigarettes in order to raise the marketing price of tobacco products in the market. According to the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance (Cap. 109), tobacco duty is charged as per quantity or weight by the Customs and Excise Department.
For example, the duty charged per 1,000 cigarettes is HKD$1,706. Also as a means of preventing imports of cigarettes in Hong Kong, since 1 August 2010, it is prohibited for any residents or visitors of Hong Kong to carry more than 19 cigarettes to Hong Kong. This strict no duty-free cessation restricts the quantity of tobacco products entering Hong Kong. In terms of alcohol, since the year of 2008, duty on beer and wine has been exempted in Hong Kong. However, liquor that has over 30% alcohol strength has to pay 100% duty in proportion to its value.
When comparing the pricing measures, tobacco has a stricter pricing strategy in reducing demand relative to alcohol. Measures that regulate behavior Other than measures that affect the supply, marketing and prices of tobacco products and liquor, formal social control mechanisms have also been implement in restricting drinking and smoking, especially in public areas. Under the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance, as effective since 2007, smoking is prohibited in all indoor areas including restaurants, indoor workplaces, public indoor areas, public transport facilities and certain public outdoor spaces.
In September 2009, the government has further tightened the smoking ban in regulating smoking in Hong Kong – Under the Fixed Penalty (Smoking Offenses) Ordinance (Cap. 600), offenders are subjected to a fine of HKD$1,500 if caught smoking in restricted non-smoking areas, and will be charged extra if fines were not settled within 21 days. In terms of alcohol, unlike the United States, Hong Kong does not restrict the carrying of alcohol products in the streets. However, behavior of drinking is mainly regulated by means to prevent drunk driving.
According to the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374), it is illegal for someone to operate a vehicle if the proportion of alcohol in his breath exceeds 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath. In face that drunk driving has become a growing trend in Hong Kong, since 2009, the government implemented a random breath testing policy, permitting police officers to stop any vehicle and subject the driver to a breath test without reasonable suspicion. Any offender found drunk driving will be subject to fines up to HKD$25,000 as well as imprisonment up to 3 years.
Also, a three-tier system was implement in recording the frequency of offense in drivers, first convictions will be deducted ten driving offense points, banned from operating vehicles for no less than 3 months and are required to attend a compulsory driving improvement course. B. Informal Social Control According to Black (1976), informal social control refers to non-legal means of regulating socially problematic behavior. Common examples include family, friends, religious groups, work colleagues, etc. Family Family serves as the first encounter of learning and development for children.
Often, children raised in a stable environment rear well-attached children who are less likely to engage in deviant behavior, as said in social control theories. Parents are responsible for caring for their children, as well as educating them on acceptable social behavior and norms. When preventing their children from smoking or drinking, parents can bring out negative health consequences related to tobacco or alcohol consumptions; as well as serve as role models by refraining from such behavior so that their children would develop healthy living habits.
Also, parents can set a curfew for their children to prevent them from hanging out in the streets late at night, which increases their risk of exposure to tobacco and alcohol. Parents can also implement strict budget control so that their children would not afford to buy tobacco or alcohol. Schools Education plays a key role in teaching children the necessary knowledge and skills to take up adult roles in society concerning social relations and identities. Apart from family, school is another institution where children are placed in a system with rules and regulations, as well as authority figures to monitor their conduct.
It acts as a secondary agent for socializing children of accepted social norms and values. Schools act as a form of informal social control through various ways. First, in terms of education curriculum, students are taught in biology or general studies the negative impacts of smoking and drinking, thus serves as a channel of information that deters children from taking up smoking or drinking. Second, in terms of institutional means, schools in Hong Kong have an organized system of rules that often include the ban of consumption of tobacco or alcoholic products on school premises.
Teachers in school often serve as both authoritative figures and role models for students to learn and develop healthy habits and attitudes in life. Apart from institutionalized means, schools also co-operate with the government in organizing events in promoting anti-smoking or anti-drinking messages in the student body. For example, the Health Care and Promotion Fund organizes an inter-school anti-smoking campaign annually to enhance the knowledge of primary and secondary students on the harms of smoking, as well as prevent students from smoking (Health Care and Promotion Fund, 2007).
It is a joint effort between the government, schools and non-governmental bodies to raise both awareness and knowledge of students on the issue through tobacco control slogan competitions, drama competitions, quizzes as well as movie competitions (Health Care and Promotion Fund, 2007). Mass Media According Demers (1999), mass media serves as both agents of social change and social control through controlling the dissemination of information that reinforces dominant social norms and values.
However, due to the publicity and reach of mass media, mass media can be powerful in aiding the government in disseminating public information concerning health issues and concerns, thus raising public awareness on the issue of tobacco and alcohol. Conclusion To conclude, social control of tobacco and alcohol is necessary because consumption of both products leads to threats against other people’s health and lives. In order to preserve social order and preserve mankind, it is necessary to implement social control of tobacco and alcohol through formal and informal means.
In Hong Kong, there is an organized legislature in tackling the availability, marketing, pricing as well as consumption behavior of tobacco and alcohol. While in terms of informal social control, families, schools, workplace, churches or non-governmental bodies, as well as the mass media go hand in hand in playing a key role in regulating smoking or drinking behavior. To conclude, it is essential to acknowledge the importance of collaboration of various parties to demonstrate the most effective way of social control. Bibliography Black, D. (1976). The Behavior of Law.