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Social Issues

Social Issues

Social issues emerge due to the destruction of societal norms, standards, functions, and relationships or aggravation of existing contradictions between different social strata. Ramified consequences of social issues make an impact on all spheres of society and all social groups. Thus, social problems are complicated phenomena; their solution requires both theoretical and practical efforts.

Tobacco Smoking

  • Duration of the issue – roughly five decades; antismoking campaigns were first launched in 1965.
  • Affected individuals: adults aged ≥18 years and second-hand smokers, including children and adult nonsmokers.
  • The essence of the issue. Centuries ago, in 1492, Christopher Columbus introduced tobacco to Europe. Since then, tobacco smoking has become one of the most prevalent deleterious habits worldwide despite numerous antismoking campaigns, governmental regulations of the industry, and dissemination of its consequences in the mass media. Smoking is often perceived by individuals as a sedative means or a sign of maturity. Another common misconception is the belief that nicotine can increase attention or enhance memory in tobacco smokers. Therefore, smoking is prevalent among university students. Both male and female students get engaged into smoking activities in order to neutralize stress, relax, unwind, or cope with their personal difficulties and study-induced problems. On the contrary, tobacco smoking can cause or aggravate such illnesses as cardiovascular disorders, different forms of cancer, pulmonary diseases, and so forth. Nicotine, a poisonous substance derived from the tobacco plant, penetrates the brain and nervous system of smokers, causing malfunctions of vital organs. Moreover, the occurrence of asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, other respiratory disorders, and deteriorated physiological abilities are often associated with second-hand smoking. According to US Food and Drug Administration (2012), “Cigarette smoking causes an estimated 443,000 deaths each year, including approximately 49,400 deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke.” Today, the tobacco industry has become significantly destabilized due to multiple legal claims and litigation. In order to reduce the rates of smoking addiction, public policymakers, scholars, researchers, health care providers, and numerous social organizations initiate and launch effective antismoking campaigns; those are held both locally and globally, complicating business performance of tobacco producers. Nevertheless, although official bodies and public organizations design regulatory recommendations for tobacco production, distribution, and advertising, these requirements are often violated by the tobacco companies.
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Food Safety: Products with Genetically Modified Organisms

  • Duration of the issue – approximately thirty years.
  • Affected individuals: everybody who consumes products with GMO, specifically, those with low income because they are often unaware of possible consequences of genetically engineered products, do not pay attention to information on food labels, and make their choices in favor of cheaper foods.
  • The essence of the issue. The consumption of products containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) is a food-related social issue. Genetically modified foods are gradually becoming the most frequently consumed goods because of their affordability, attractive external characteristics, and artificially increased content of microelements and vitamins. Humans’ health status and productivity significantly depend on nutrient characteristics of food they intake. However, despite research on safety and properties of products, investigations of potentially harmful additives, selection of different culinary recipes, development of manufacturing cycles and procedures, and strict control over technological modifications, the impact of genetically modified food on human organism has not been accurately identified yet. Traditional ingredients of processed products, such as flour or eggs, can also contain genetically modified organisms. Genetic engineering is a widely applied method of increasing agricultural productivity. It involves advanced molecular and biological procedures of modifying living organisms by inserting alien genes with desired functions and characteristics (Lerner & Lerner, 2011). “The foreign DNA can be from a related species, an unrelated plant species, or from completely different organisms such as bacteria, fungi, or even animals. In addition to the transfer of specific genes, other regions of DNA are also usually transferred” (Lerner & Lerner, 2011, p. 416). Modifying plants’ genetic code, investigators improve traits of existing species and create new ones. However, striving to increase the profitability of the food industry and agriculture, food manufacturers do not sometimes consider adverse impact of genetically engineered products on consumers. Humans’ genotypes predetermine their response to products with genetically modified organisms. Inadequate metabolic and physiological processes can be caused by the consumption of foodstuffs with GMO, resulting in excess weight and obesity . Thus, although economic efficiency of foods produced with the inclusion of genetically modified organisms stipulates high rates of their manufacturing and consumption, these products can dramatically aggravate health condition of the whole society.

Water Pollution

  • Duration of the issue – several decades; the exacerbation took place in 2010 (oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico).
  • Affected audience and consequences: biodiversity of aquatic communities, including mammals, fisheries, shellfish, algae, microorganisms, and coral reefs; consumers of seafood and fresh water; the world community.

The essence of the issue. Environmental pollution in general and water pollution in particular are socially predetermined phenomena. Intensive industrial processes, technological progress, excessive utilization of fertilizers and pesticides, infrastructure development, extensive use of natural resources, and land conversion are aimed at satisfying increasing needs of growing populations, generating the issue of environmental pollution. Water pollution is one of its multiple manifestations. Such socially induced anthropogenic factors as inadequate nutrient inputs into waterways, irrelevant interactions (correlations) between production and decomposition of organic substances, and intoxication with petroleum products, phenols, heavy metals, and other harmful substances lead to the contamination of fresh water. Water pollution makes a negative impact on the biodiversity of aquatic communities; living organisms of both seas and freshwater reservoirs are gradually disappearing because they cannot completely adapt to rapid environmental changes. Pesticides, petrochemicals, detergents, heavy metals, such as mercury, zinc, and lead, industrial waste, and other harmful substances afflict and kill aquatic organisms, causing irretrievable damage to biodiversity. Toxic substances are dispersed by water flows over large distances, contaminating other reservoirs. Components of poisonous substances accumulate in aquatic organisms, resulting in high rates of their mutations and fatality. While consuming intoxicated aquatic organisms, humans, as well as birds and mammals, are exposed to toxic agents. Moreover, the deterioration of water resources increases risks of floods and droughts worldwide. In 2010, nearly 4.9 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico. The solvents and other chemicals, which were used to purify the water in the Gulf of Mexico, modified genetic peculiarities of living creatures; those “will pass on their DNA mutations to their descendants” (Edward, 2011).  Thus, the social issue of water pollution has a detrimental impact on the biodiversity of aquatic communities, food chain, and all humans.