Over the last few years, you may have noticed more “no smoking” signs have cropped up on parks and beaches. They’re part of a larger trend banning smoking at outside, public areas. In fact, smoking has been banned in 843 parks and more than 150 beaches in the last two decades. Since tobacco use is considered to be a bad habit that squanders money and lives, should smoking be banned in public places?. Here are five reasons why.
No. 1: Secondhand smoke has serious negative health consequences. Unlike other self-indulgent behaviors like eating fast food or drinking alcohol in public, secondhand smoke is not singularly linked to the participant. The negative effects of smoking in public carry over into other people’s lives with a tangible, measurable, and sometimes permanent impact. Whereas eating fast food for every meal or excessive alcohol consumption is likely harmful to the individual, the negative impact on others is minimal. Some may argue that eating too much fast food may cause an earlier death and the associated increased cost of medical care is a burden on the taxpayer. While probably true, the link is weaker, less immediate and less measurable than the one between secondhand smoke and health.
Secondhand smoke exposure is clearly linked with negative outcomes on a person’s health. While the exact degree of harm is debatable, a recent study published in the medical journal Circulation reviewed 13 studies from around the world and found that banning smoking in public places can reduce heart attack hospitalizations by up to 36 percent over time, regardless of geographical location. Clearly, it’s become increasingly more difficult to make a case that secondhand smoke causes no measurable injury to the breather — especially over time. The scientific evidence that links secondhand smoke with heart disease and cancer has been mounting for decades. Not only that, the effects of temporary exposure to smoke are also well documented and include headaches, breathing problems, and even nausea. The bottom line is that secondhand smoke has numerous short-term and long-term consequences for innocent bystanders.
No. 2: Litter reduction. Cigarette butts account for millions of pieces of litter annually and detracts from a location’s aesthetic. If smokers would dispose of their waste properly when they’re in public places, this might not be an issue, but the fact of the matter is that they don’t. The evidence is there, littering attractive buildings and the surrounding landscape with cigarette butts. A smoking ban would reduce litter. Although not a primary argument in support of a public smoking ban, it is still a credible one.
No. 3: The lingering odor of stale cigarettes. In bars and restaurants and other establishments that permit smoking, many patrons find the smell of cigarettes to be unpleasant and annoying. Cigarette smoke tends to linger on people’s clothes and hair and takes longer to fade even after the offending party has left. Clothes worn to a smoky bar may still smell like smoke days later.
No. 4: The right to a healthy workplace. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe and healthy environment for its employees. While many workers choose to work in workplaces that permit smoking, others may prefer not to be around smoke but persist because they need the employment. A smoking ban opponent may simply say, “work somewhere without smoke,” yet I would argue that your insistence on smoking in public is not as important as that employee’s health and livelihood. Smokers’ unwillingness to control their urges should not force people to change jobs in the name of personal health and welfare.
No. 5: The cost of secondhand smoke. We’re not talking only about the high cost of the smoking habit, which can average $1,500 a year just for the cigarettes. But there also are smoking medical costs. For example, a smoker with poor lung function may have much higher medical bills because of the smoking habit. Smokers also pay more for life insurance and health insurance than nonsmokers, because of their higher risk of health care costs. Smoking lowers the potential resale value of home and cars, because most buyers are not interested in purchasing a house or car that smells like cigarettes. Not to mention the cost to businesses and taxpayers to beautify streets, buildings and other public places that have been littered and damaged by smoking. These are some of the hidden costs of smoking.
Final thoughts. My position is that with the use of controlled substances comes the responsibility to respect other people’s health.