OPINION: The new cigarette warning labels are yet another reminder of the harmful effects of cigarettes and the hypocrisy of keep it legal while marijuana is not.

If you need proof that cigarettes are harmful, just look at the FDA's new cigarette warning labels. 

They show that cigarettes can put holes in your throat, harm your children, mess up your lungs, take a chunk of flesh off your lips, and ultimately kill you.

In fact, smoking tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature deaths in the US.  It kills 433,000 people each year (1 in every 5 deaths) and cost more than $200 billion economically in diminished productivity and medical costs.

If there is one substance that hurts the US society and economy the most, it’s tobacco.  However, cigarettes remain legal.  So the US must really respect individual freedom to consume substances, right?

WRONG.

In one of the most hypocritical legal realities in Western society, cigarettes are legal while marijuana is not.

Marijuana doesn’t cause any preventable and premature deaths.  433,000 versus 0.  The difference is vast.

While marijuana and tobacco are both commonly smoked, the effect of marijuana on the human body is actually closer to that of alcohol.  Alcohol, a legal substance, kills 79,000 people per year and cost the economy billions of dollars.  This represents yet another gross hypocrisy in the legal system.

Why do these hypocrisies exist?

Cultural bias is one.  Many people, because of marijuana’s criminalized status, believe it to be more harmful than cigarettes and alcohol.  On the flip side, some are not educated about the devastating effects of cigarettes and alcohol.   

Lobbying is another.  The alcohol and tobacco industry spend millions of dollars per year lobbying Washington.  The nascent medical marijuana industry, on the other hand, doesn’t have such deep pockets.

Political status quo is yet another reason.  The US government, 4 decades ago, rolled out the war on drugs under a misguided premise.  Before that, it enacted other legislations against marijuana without fully understanding the substance.

Now, as scientific research and statistics that show the “superiority” of marijuana over tobacco and alcohol emerge, it will take some time before Washington reverses itself.

Steve Fox, director of public affairs for the National Cannabis Industry Association, believes those born after the 1950s have a more accurate understanding of marijuana.  Therefore, as time goes on, the US population will increasingly support the legalization of it.

The latest Gallup poll shows that 46 percent of Americans already support the legalization of marijuana.  Among survey participants between the ages of 18 and 29, 61 percent support it. 

Fox said starting from 10 or 15 years ago, public support for marijuana legalization has climbed about 1 to 2 percentage points each year.  If this trend continues, the majority of American could support marijuana legalization in just a few years.