For a number of years, numerous governments worldwide have tried to reduce the habit of smoking by a number of ways such as putting warnings on the packets, running advertising campaigns against it, and taxing tobacco. However, several countries have introduced new laws that ban smoking in public places. Most of these bans apply to places that are enclosed, for example, restaurants, offices, bars, theatres, bus stops and train stations. These laws have been put in place so as to protect the non smokers from second hand smoke. It affects their health and could end up causing them dangerous diseases such as lung cancer. This has caused a lot of debate on whether any government does justice to its citizens by banning smoking in public places and designating specific areas for smokers. Those who criticize this move say that the law protects only one side and the public space as well. While a public space should be for everyone, non-smokers seem to be the ones favored by the government. The critics also claim it is bad for tourism in some aspects. There are those who will be affected financially by having laws that force them to provide services to a few tourists and residents. So, is this law a noble action or part of discrimination? I support the idea of smoking being banned in public places for a number of reasons. While everyone is entitled to being protected by the government, non-smokers have a right to be protected against experiencing smoking against their will as they end up suffering even more than the smokers.
Firstly, public smoking ban would protect the health of a non-smoker. Research by various scientists has it that secondhand smoke brings about the same problems as those of direct smoking. Some of the dangers posed by the smoke include cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema (Barendregt, Bonneux & van der Maas 1056). It has also been proved that non-smokers who live with those who smoke have a thirty per cent greater risk of getting lung cancer than non-smokers living with non-smokers. Moreover, in the workplace, non-smokers who are exposed to smoke have a greater risk of about eighteen per cent chance of having lung cancer than those who are not exposed. Keeping all these in mind, why should innocent non-smokers become exposed to such risks without their consent? In 2002, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the W.H.O. did a study and concluded that, non-smokers do get exposed to the same carcinogens as a result of the tobacco smoke just as the active smokers. As a matter of fact, other carcinogens that are well established have been proved by research to be present at higher levels in secondhand smoke that in the mainstream. This proves disaster for non-smokers. Many well established organizations have proved the problems arising from secondhand smoke including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and the World Health Organization (W.H.O.). The main point here is that, active smokers choose to smoke, however, non-smokers around do not choose to smoke passively in any way. Therefore, people can only be allowed to get exposed to any harm if they understand the risks that come along and also choose to accept them. It is not for the non-smokers to avoid smokers but viceversa. I support a total ban on smoking in public spaces so as to protect the masses from what can be termed as passive smoking.
Secondly, a ban on smoking in places such as restaurants or bars will lead to an improved quality of air in such places. It should be noted that there are esteemed customers and employees as well who do not smoke in such establishments. Research has it that an improved quality of air in bars and restaurants would translate to a decrease in toxin exposure amongst employees. Places that have enacted such laws, for example, in Norway, showed that there were a decreased level of nicotine in workers who smoked and also those who did not. These were employees in establishments that immediately enacted the smoking ban. A study by CDC also shows that there was a reduction in the levels of respirable suspended particles (RSP) in the western venues that had sought to eliminate smoking in public places and enclosed workplaces as well. I hold the view that such workers who choose not to smoke should be guarded against secondhand smoke. This is because most of them do not have a choice in these times of hardship, where it is hard to find a job. It is a fact that numerous countries have put in place safety standards that would not expose them to unnecessary danger, and this one of a ban on smoking in their workplace should be amongst. While it is an individual’s choice to choose where to work, even in dangerous places such as mining or fishing, with the hard economic times, people do not have a choice on work as it is a hard one to come by. In this case, it will be only fair enough if they are given the necessary protection in the workplace.
Thirdly, if a government wants to discourage rampant smoking, a ban would make sure that smokers either smoke less or give up the habit once and for all. It is a fact that if smoking should be banned in most public spaces, then it would cease to be a social activity as what it would be if not banned. It will be a burden if an individual has to leave his or her comfort with friends to go and smoke outside. Adverse or extreme weather conditions would actually force the smokers to reduce their habit. In Scotland where a ban had been instituted, a third of active smokers confessed to the fact that the ban was actually helping them reduce their habit. Notably, fewer people would want to disassociate with smoking or start smoking if it actually became cumbersome and less of a social activity. In the long run, the government might end up saving some of the tax payers’ money that goes into treating diseases that are related to smoking. It is simple mathematics that if the government can save money by banning smoking in public places, then it has the right to go ahead and discourage smoking. Bans in such public places could actually reduce the general habitual act due to stigmatization. There has been a survey conducted in the United Kingdom suggesting that about twenty two per cent of active smokers could actually quit the habit all together if there was a ban on smoking in public spaces or workplaces. The CDC report in the United States state that the smoking rate reduced by increased bans on smokers and also large increases in taxes against tobacco. While people can argue that smokers have a right to smoke, and it is their choice, I hold the view that the government also has a right to protect its citizens against harmful diseases that result from smoking tobacco and its products.
Fourthly, a ban on smoking in public would ensure that the rights of non-smokers are put in check. While every individual has a right to smoke, it is said that the right to smoke ends when it affects the lungs, nasal passages, or generally the health of other individuals who are non-smokers. Critics argue that public spaces are for everyone, and hence should not discriminate. While this might be true, non-smokers account for a large population in the world and nearly everywhere in public spaces. This means smokers are just a minority, hence they should be not allowed to endanger the health of fellow citizens who choose not to smoke. It is for this reason that I hold the view that smoking be banned in all public places. Everyone has the right to a healthy environment, healthy workplace, and healthy public utilities such as bars and restaurants. It is then good if smokers are given their own premises to smoke so as to protect the rights of non-smokers. An employer has the responsibility of providing a safe or better yet a healthy environment for all the employees. Similarly, the government has the right to protect majority of its citizens from pollution of the air caused by cigarette smoke in all public spaces such as train stations and bus stops. On matters dealing with employment, workers may not want to be around cigarette smoke but continue staying due to the need of the employment. While some may say that those who do not want to smoke should stay away from smoke, I am of the opinion that their smoking in public is not that much of an importance if compared to the livelihood and health of an employee or any other individual affected directly. It is not fair for a few smokers to force hardworking employees to quit their jobs. It would be fair if they are restricted and in the end everyone benefits.
Lastly, a ban placed on smoking would eventually eliminate the unappealing odor left by smoke. It is a fact that cigarette smoke has the tendency of lingering in someone’s clothes, body or hair, which makes it very much disruptive even more than the odor of another individual. This means that the habit or the odor becomes intrusive to the lives of non-smokers. In my view, it is a violation of a number of liberties of the many non-smokers, who end up smelling like smokers yet they dislike the whole idea. Patrons and other customers in places such as restaurants or bars that permit smoking find the smell of cigarette annoying and unpleasant. Most people would agree to the fact that the smell of smoke tends to remain on any cloth worn on smoky bars for a few days. There are those who say that individuals finding the smell of smoke unappealing should not complain, however, they should not keep quiet on something that disgusts them. A ban comes in handy to make a clear separation so that those who enjoy smoking are kept on their own, while non-smokers remain with their God-given freedom of a clean air, which in the end keeps them safe from diseases from tobacco that can be clearly avoided.
In conclusion, while everyone has the right of choosing what they want to do with their own lives, I believe that those who do not want harm should be protected from it by any means. I fully support the idea of smoking being banned in public places. While everyone is entitled to being protected by the government, non-smokers have a right to be protected against experiencing smoking against their will as they end up suffering even more than the smokers. There are many advantages that would come with a ban on smoking in public places or workplaces. A public smoking ban would protect the health of a non-smoker, lead to an improved quality of air in places such as bars and restaurants, improve the lives of both smokers and non-smokers, and generally improve the air around us and the living conditions during this time we experience weather challenges or air pollution.