Source: Composite by G_marius based on a Kenji Aryan´s image
We discuss if smoking should be further restricted. Should smoking be banned in public spaces? What about in outdoor areas? Check out our poll and find out what is the dominant view among our users. Vote and join the debate!
Should smoking be banned in public places?
Tobacco is a legal drug and one of the main public health issues: the World Health Organization claims that tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death globally. Many governments have introduced smoking bans. In particular governments have restricted the consumption of tobacco on public spaces (such as restaurants, work places, sports arenas, etc.). One of the most commented-upon cases is the prohibition of smoking in any indoor public space in Beijing introduced in 2015. The purpose of restricting smoking is not only to reduce tobacco consumption by smokers but also to protect people from the effects of second-hand smoke. However, legal restrictions on smoking have also raised concerns about personal liberty.
Restrictions to smoking in outdoor areas - such as those introduced in New York City in 2014 - are usually the most controversial of all. Should smoking be restricted in parks, beaches, and streets? On the one side people claim that smokes bothers non-smokers, even if it is outdoors. It sets a bad example for children who may internalize this habit as something normal and may become more prone to become smokers in the future. Moreover smokers tend to throw the cigarette butts to the floor. Conversely those opposing to further restrictions claim that the harm caused by smokers in public spaces is minimal, in particular if compared with the smoke produced by vehicles. Wouldn't it be logical then to ban non-environmental friendly cars in cities? This could be the first of a series of other prohibitions that could make people's lives look similar to those in Orwell's 1984. Are we also going to ban other habits that may be considered annoying such as chewing gum, drinking in public spaces, shouting or even singing?
Next, we list the main advantages and disadvantages of prohibiting smoking in public areas. Think about them, make up your mind, vote in our poll and comment on our discussion forum below.
Pros and cons of smoking bans
Pros of banning smoking in public places:
- Health and rights of passive smokers: those who do not smoke will not have to inhale the smoke from the cigarettes of smokers. Passive smoking is an important health issue that has caused the death of millions of people worldwide. Moreover, non smokers have the right to stay away of smoke if that is their decision. In this case the freedom to smoke in public area clashes with the individual right of those who don't want to be exposed to smoke.
- Smell: tobacco smell displeases most people. Even smokers complaint of how bad their clothing smells after spending time in close places with a lot of smoke. Banning smoking in public spaces would contribute to reduce tobacco odor. No need to wash pullovers, dresses, trousers, as often as before.
- Set a good example for children: smokers have been historically driven to the habit by imitation of other people. Actors, politicians, parents and other figures we admired used to smoke. Somehow kids would try to imitate the demeanor of those they like or find role models in their lives and aspirations. The less children see other people smoking, the less prone they will be to smoke.
- Reduce tobacco consumption: the benefits of stopping smoking are evident. If smokers cannot smoke cigarretes in public spaces they will likely smoke less. This wil be good for their health and for their finances. Tobacco has become very expensive in many countries. Tobacco users also claim that the banning smoking in public places may help them with quitting. In particular social smokers are vulnerable when they see other people smoking around them.
- Reduce public spending: the prohibition of smoking in public places would help governments save a large amount of money in heathcare. The US government spends more than $10 billion every year in heath care costs associated to tobacco consumption. With a ban, air quality would improve and public health systems would spend less in treatements for cancer and respiratory diseases. Moreover, cleaning costs would be reduced. Today cigarette butts force local authorities to intensify the frequency of street cleaning.
Cons of banning smoking in public places:
- Demonization of smokers: prohibiting smoking cigarettes contributes to the stigmatization of smokers. Smokers are normal people, some of them smoke because they really enjoy the habit other because the fail to quit. Forcing them to smoke in private or only in smokers designated areas is a way to stigmatize them in society.
- Comparative disadvantage: there are other annoying or potentially dangerous habits for which regulation is not so strict. For instance, in many countries it is allowed to drink alcohol in public places. Alcohol consumption is another great threat for public health. We often see people very drunk in public spaces. They may provoke fights and set a poor example for children. If we want to be fair, shouldn't we also ban drinking in public places? In some states carrying guns is allowed in public places. Aren't firearms more dangerous than cigarettes?
- Taxes: tobacco is a great source of income for governments. Cigarettes are heavily taxed and the money collected from tobacco consumption can be used to fund research projects against the diseases caused by it or even education programs to raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco.
- Pleasure: smoking has been considered a pleasure for centuries. Humans are often willing to undertake some risks for their health for the sake of enjoyment. It is accepted that people drink alcohol because the fun they may get from it, despite its obvious risks. Similarly, extreme sports are practiced by an increasing number of people regardless of the dangers they entail. If we want to ban tobacco because is bad for health, following the same logic, shouldn't we also ban fast food or sodas?
- Freedom: public spaces belong to us all. Banning smoking in public areas means limiting individual liberties. Government regulation can become increasingly intrusive if we allow it. What is the boundary between the collective good and the individual freedom? There is a delicate trade-off and it is not clear where the red lines should be placed. What if after banning smoking in public places they decide to ban speaking loud, cracking jokes, or wearing a certain type of clothing? Can we objectively define what is necessary to ban or not?
Do you think we should further restrict smoking in public spaces? Is current regulation too enough or too much? Should smoking be illegal?
If you change your mind, you can change your vote simply by clicking on another option.
Should smoking be banned in public places, even in outdoor areas?
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