I apologize in advance for the personal/GTKY /rantishness aspects of this node, but there are some issues here that I've pondered for quite a while.

In a nutshell: I hate smoking. I think smoking is a thoroughly disgusting habit. I truly believe that the tobacco industry is built up and perpetuated on a colossal lie.

And yet, I drink alcohol. Does this make me a hypocrite? One could argue as such, but I have a arguments of my own to posit here.

  • Smoking is disgusting. In essence, one is igniting a collection of combustible materials, and inhaling the resulting toxic gases into one's system. This revolting collection of chemicals includes quite a few carcinogens as well as other substances that are generally bad for one's health.

  • Every time a person smokes, they affect not only their own health, but the health of those around them. Yes, a smoker is not only producing this disturbing noxious assortment within their own environment, but also the environment of any unfortunate individuals in close proximity. This means, I'm within breathing distance of a smoker, I'm also breathing in toxic detritus with possible adverse effects on my own health.

  • The tobacco industry is built upon a lie. The legal age by which a person can legitimately purchase tobacco products, in North America at least, is usually in the 18-19 range. Yet ask any smoker at what age they started their "habit", and for the vast majority, it will be their early teens, if not younger. How many people do you know who turn 18/19, and say something along the lines of "I just turned the legal age to purchase and use tobacco products. Although I've never smoked, I think I'll start now..."?

  • Drinking does not immediately adversely affect others within the drinker's proximity. It is true that alcohol abuse can, in some instances, affect others; an inebriated driver can be a danger to other drivers or pedestrians; an alcoholic can cause emotional or psychological distress to his or her family and friends, etc. Yet unlike smokers, if you're sitting next to a person who is drinking, they're not invading your environment with a flood of toxic substances.

  • Moderate drinking may actually have some positive health benefits. Much research has been conducted which suggests that moderate drinking can actually improve one's health; for example, by raising the amount of so-called "good cholesterol" which consequently lowers the amount of "bad cholesterol" in one's bloodstream. When was the last time you heard that moderate smoking had any positive health benefits?

  • It is possible to be a "social drinker". That is to say, that not everybody who drinks alcohol can be considered an addict. With smokers, however, the majority can truly be labelled as tobacco or nicotine addicts. I know that counter examples exist, such as people who smoke only "every once in a while". Yet common sense would indicate that there are far more smokers who are true addicts than there are drinkers who are alcoholics.

I realize, of course, that drinking alcohol can be seen as a disgusting habit in its own right, and that it also constitutes health risks, potential for abuse, and potential for detrimental effects upon others, but I hope that this write-up has at least pointed out some of the more striking contrasts between these two activities.
Before I start: I'm a non-smoker. I abhor the smell of cigarette smoke. I enjoy a beer or a glass of wine.

Having said that, I'd like to offer an alternative point of view, if I may:

Smoking is disgusting : Fine, albeit a tad subjective. One could equally argue that drinking the product of the fermentation/distillation of various grains and grapes is also "disgusting". Alcohol is toxic. Does it cause cancer? We'll let the experts give their opinion below.

Every time a person smokes, they affect not only their own health, but the health of those around them.: True. In California, smoking in public places is banned. People have to smoke outside a bar or restaurant. This is a good idea. Even so, you could argue that the smoke still affects other people. Well, gas-guzzling SUV's carrying a single person around all day affect the air we breathe to an unreasonable extent too. Low rider cars with booming sub-woofers affect other people unreasonably. Drunken revellers affect other people.

The tobacco industry is built upon a lie: Shock, horror - 'Big Industry built upon lie!' But seriously, with reference to this paragraph: sed -e "s/tobacco/alcohol/g".

Drinking does not immediately adversely affect others within the drinker's proximity: Alcohol-related incidents account for a large proportion of the total road deaths and injuries every year. Statistics, anyone? Alcohol-related violence, both in the home and outside, affects a lot of people too. No one ever beat up their wife after smoking too many cigarettes. No one ever crashed their car and killed innocent people because they had "one more (cigarette) for the road". No one ever got into a fight in a bar because they'd smoked too much. People don't walk down the street at 3am singing loudly and comitting mindless acts of vandalism through smoking a few.

Moderate drinking may actually have some positive health benefits.: True. So does drinking more water than the average adult does.

It is possible to be a "social drinker".: Also true. I guess it's down to responsibility, both to yourself and others. This applies equally to smoking or drinking.

Anyway, I'm off for a pint now.

Smoking is disgusting.

So is pavement pizza and beer breath. Your point?

Moderate drinking may actually have some positive health benefits.

You believe that, and it's the smoking industry that's built upon a lie? Alcohol is a toxin. Full stop. Some of the tanins in red wine, and red wine alone, are considered to be beneficial to one's health, but they can be extracted from grapes, grape juice or pommegranate juice (and maybe cranberries, too, I'm not sure).

(...) but I hope that this write-up has at least pointed out some of the more striking contrasts between these two activities.

How? How exactly did you mean to do that, since you never made a comparison between the two activities or even mentioned drinking other than prefunctorily in the closing paragraph? Is this you idea of a blow struck for objectivity?

Alcohol, though a great social facilitator, is a toxic, dangerous substance which causes millions of deaths, either through disease or violence, every year. It is a truly unnatractive habit that turns grown men and women into slobbering cretins without a shred of dignity. Attempting to justify it by jumping on the anti-smoking bandwagon is monumentally moronic.

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