Law and Policy Essay - Essay Prowess

Law and Policy Essay

Law and Policy


There have been numerous attempts over the past decade to have an outright ban ion the smoking of cigarettes. This has especially been the case among different jurisdictions within the US. Scientific research studies conducted in the last three decades present evidence that smoking is indeed not only dangerous to the active smoker but to the passive smoker as well (Proctor, 2013). It is common to find smokers lighting and smoking a cigarette in public places such as parks, parking lots and entertainment spots. Some states have gone a step further in the limiting of smoking cigarettes by banning the act of smoking in public spaces. As such, smoking is done in designated areas within city parks, entertainment spots and other public areas. Smoking in public areas has been banned in an effort to protect non smokers from adverse health effects associated with it. This paper seeks to employ the Kingdon’s Three Streams Theory in an attempt to frame cigarette banning so that policies can be formulated towards a total ban on cigarettes in the US.

John Kingdon’s Three Streams Theory

John Kingdon identified three agenda setting challenges on a given national issues which ultimately converge to present a window of opportunity necessary for the issue to progress onto a policy setting agenda stage (Policy Perspectives, n.d). These three agenda setting challenges are problems, politics and policy.

Problem: In Kingdon’s Three Streams Theory, an agenda setting challenge is the process which enables policy decision makers to concentrate on reacting to a particular problem over a host of other similarly weighty problems. For instance, in this paper, the problem is that cigarette smoking presents all members of the society, both the smoker and non smoker with adverse health consequences (Proctor, 2013). It is important to note that the probability of a policy proposal being adapted to the agenda setting stage is highly dependent on the magnitude of seriousness attributed to a problem. It is also imperative that the identified problem should have been accorded much scholarly research and public debate to warrant consideration. For instance, a problem related to budget crisis will inadvertently attract recognition from policy decision makers and other related stakeholders.

Proposals: This is essentially the process which results in the generation, revision, debate, and adoption of policy proposals. It is important to understand that a number of proposals compete at any one give time and as such, to have a proposal shortlisted requires the concerted efforts of policy makers towards employing numerous tactics to this end (Law & Policy, 2013). For a proposal to be successful, it has to have the unobstructed appeal of the general public and more so it has to be feasible.

Politics: this relates to factors of a political nature which inadvertently have an influential force on a given agenda. These political factors include changes in the holder of a politically elected office, political environment and the general political mood prevailing in a country to state (Law & Policy, 2013). It is important to note that in some instances, political factors tend to integrate the voice of advocacy stemming from political opposition groups.

All three elements of Kingdon’s Three Streams Theory operate autonomously   although in some instances; actors relative to each tend to always overlap. Successful agenda setting requires congruence of at least two of the elements. At such a point, the policy window s considered as being open (Law & Policy, 2014). One of the tactics that policy makers employ is to wait for an ideal problem to present itself and then act fast towards attaching an identified proposal to the problem. It is however important to understand that policy windows do not remain open for long. Thus, failure to make the most of an open window translates to waiting for another opportunity to present itself which may be never.

Policy Windows

Windows open as a result of changes occurring, either as a result of a problem stream or a political stream. This implies that there are two forms of policy windows, the problem window which is as a result of the problem being to overbearing and the political window which mainly results form an increase in political goodwill (Law & Policy, 2014).

Kingdon provides that it is highly possible for a particular issue to rise up to the decision agenda stage in the instance where all streams converge (Law & Policy, 2013). This implies at the instance a window of opportunity opens up, there is a realistic policy proposal at hand. In the instance a problem window open up, the issue has a chance to progress to the agenda setting stage if there is a resolute policy at hand which appeals to political policy makers. In a situation where the political window opens up, it is essential to identify a wanting problem which can be attached to a resolute proposal.

Public Smoking Ban Policy

Problem: The contemporary literature material provides worrying statistics which identify smoking as a serious issue which presents numerous socio-economic challenges for the US society and government institutions. Many young American are taking up smoking to conform to contemporary lifestyle trends (Proctor, 2013). Conservative estimates provide that about 5.6 million Americans aged 18 years and below are expected to suffer premature deaths as a result of smoking related diseases. It is common knowledge among the general American population that cigarette smoking remains at the core of the nation’s contemporary health pandemic. This problem requires a policy proposal aimed towards curbing smoking of cigarettes among the youthful American population as well as the older populations too.

Research studies on the problem provide that cigarette smokers are more likely to suffer colorectal and live cancer in comparison to non smokers. Similarly, passive smokers who are exposed to harmful second hand smoke as a result of living with a smoking partner, family member or friend are much more likely to suffer strokes as compared to those not exposed to passive smoking (Chapman, & Wakefield, 2013). Cigarette smoking significantly increases a person’s susceptibility to suffering from different forms of cancer. It has also been conclusively established that cancer survivors who had or continue to smoke cigarettes are at the risk of suffering a diverse array of other high mortality diseases.

Community: Research oriented investigations have revealed conclusive evidence indicating that the American communities are suffering from the adverse consequences of smoking cigarettes. Smoking is a highly addictive lifestyle trend which presents new and old smokers with serious social challenges. These are in essence detrimental to goals aimed at improving the quality of life among community members (Casamayou, 2003). This is especially the case with teenage males in the US society. Statistical figures provide that though they are addicted to nicotine, they exhibit a willingness to quit smoking though the addictive properties of nicotine make it difficult for them to quit the habit.

Smoking has been proven to present significant health related problems among teenagers in the contemporary US society. Teenagers are at a physical development stage where the body is growing at a significant rate. This implies that the lungs of teenagers are still immature, that is not yet fully developed. Exposing such lungs to cigarette smoke serves to aggravate respiratory complication. Their lungs cease to grow prematurely and are more highly likely to suffer cancer. Henningfield and Zaatari (2010) provide that this is the result of cell mutation within underdeveloped organ tissues leading to future incidences of malignant tissue. Research studies provide that delaying smoking for about two years after maturity significantly reduces the prevalence of such adverse health risks.

Political: It is the responsibility of the political stream to reign in on the cigarette manufacturers towards ensuring that the open window opportunity is fully utilized. Cigarette manufacturer make a huge amount of money from the sale of cigarettes. This is mainly due to the addictive properties of nicotine commonly found in cigarettes. This is quite a challenge for the political stream since cigarette manufacturers contribute significantly to economic growth. The growth of tobacco, manufacture of cigarettes as well as the marketing and advertising campaigns of finished products results in the job creation for many among the American people (Casamayou, 2003). Without the political goodwill, this open window will pass and result in a significant burden on the US government as a result of exponentially increasing healthcare costs.  Weighing the two, it is imperative for the political elements in the US governments to embrace the fact that the healthcare costs will definitely surpass the revenues collected from cigarette manufacturers.

Framing the issue

Politicians as well as antismoking groups favoring an all out public smoking ban are encouraged by the public awareness on the adverse health effects associated with active and passive cigarette smoking (Casamayou, 2003). This has been enabled by the diverse media channels available from the conventional TV advertising by antismoking entities and the use of social media platforms.

Opponents of the public smoking ban are at the moment only grasping at the economic perspective of the issues and the self defeating right to smoke. As proponents of public health standards are in favor of a nationwide public smoking ban (Casamayou, 2003). For instance, about one and a half decades ago, the Republican politicians in the state of New York estimate that passive smoking could cost the state’s public health system about 6 billion annually. This was in 2003. At present, these arguments provide a well organized and ideal problem stream awaiting the convergences of the other two streams.


The sole aim of the ban on smoking cigarettes in public places is essentially to institute measure curtailing the prevalence of preventable diseases. Smoking is a lifestyle disease and those who are active smokers should not be in a position to negatively affect the health attributes of innocent non smokers. Passive smoking actually has more dangerous consequences as the second hand smoke is unaware of the probable health consequences (Casamayou, 2003). As discussed earlier, teenagers are the most affected of the entire American population. If this trend continues, the American economy may have to continuously depend on immigrants to sustain economic development. Such is the dire state of the US society which calls for policy proposals seeking to ban cigarette smoking in an effort to prevent high mortality rates among the county’s youth.

Policy proposal: The above stated reasons provide policy makers with an avenue to take advantage of towards the formulation of a cohesive public ban on cigarette smoking policy framework. There are a number of states within the US which have already formulated successful proposal policies aimed at banning public cigarette smoking. For instance, the state of New York affected a limited ban on New York City residents banning smoking in public spaces and buildings. The NY city was able to implement this ban as a result of the political goodwill extended by the then may, M. R. Bloomberg. This became a source of motivation for the governor of New York who sought to affect a statewide ban on smoking cigarettes in public spaces.


An outright smoking ban can only be possible with the convergence of all elements in Kingdon’s Three Stream Theory. Given all these parameter are presently at a pint of convergence, it is possible for the policy makers to attach the proposal to the two remaining stream and thus rise to the public policy agenda stage. The prevalence of teenage smokers, the adverse effects on passive smokers and the high rate of cancer diagnosis in active smokers have cemented the fact that the habit translates to a formidable health risk. The American public is grappling under this problem thus politically motivating stakeholders to find political reasons. The Kingdon policy window may work effectively towards banning the smoking of cigarettes in public.


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