A habit may be either an asset or a liability. It may be marked by an increased ability and facility in doing something desirable and useful, or it may be marked by an opposite effect and by a decreased ability to resist. Essentially, therefore, a bad habit is a custom or practice that has a balance of detriment rather than benefit, and is liable to become fixed.

Consider, for instance, the habit of smoking cigarettes. For this habit, no thorough reckoning has found a balance on the side of benefit. Count Tolstoi, who acquired a worldwide reputation as a philosopher and sage, regarded the use of tobacco as the most dangerous of bad habits, because it deadens conscience (Essays, pp. 127, 130). Other writers have expressed a similar view by saying that smoking tends to make a person contented when he should be discontented. Many social welfare workers have observed that the cigarette habit leads to other bad habits, and tends toward moral laxity. Furthermore, in many instances this habit can be traced to the wish to be seen smoking, which incentive or motive nobody is likely to defend.

Another important factor in the cigarette situation is the organized money and skill engaged in promoting the habit to profit by it. The money spent every year for the advertising of the products of tobacco amounts to an immense sum. An authority has estimated that the cost of this advertising in the United States last year amounted to twenty-five million dollars. And much of the advertising by the manufacturers of cigarettes consists of pictures and suggestions evidently calculated to produce in boys, girls, and young people the wish to be seen as smokers.

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"Cheerful feasts"
March 1, 1930

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