Should we ban smoking in public places? | The Tylt
Should we ban smoking in public places?
People want to ban smoking in public spaces because according to former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, there's no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke. The further away you are, the more that risk is diminished—but there's no way to render it completely safe, besides banning smoking altogether. If we know second-hand smoke is a real danger, we must do something to protect non-smokers from the harmful choices others make.
People can smoke privately in their homes if they so choose. But smoking is ultimately a choice, and no one should suffer health consequences over someone else's choice. At the very least, outdoor smoking is a nuisance to non-smokers—like playing loud music at the park or not picking up after your dog. It's rude and inconsiderate for those who don't smoke.
"There's no risk-free level of secondhand smoke," said Brian King, an expert on secondhand smoke with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Others say the evidence that supports outdoor smoking bans is flimsy at best. We do know second-hand smoke in indoor situations is highly dangerous. Indoor smoking bans make sense. But there's no evidence that suggests smoking in an outdoor setting has a significant impact on the health of non-smokers. Here's what William Saletan at Slate wrote about the research on outdoor smoking:
The more open the space and the farther away you are, the lower your smoke exposure. To get the kind of exposure you'd suffer indoors, you have to stand within two feet of the smoker. Move seven feet away, and you're "close to background," i.e., breathing normal air. I recommend greater distance than that, just to be safe. But you don't need to ban smoking throughout Central Park.
At a more fundamental level, prohibition doesn't work. When indoor smoking bans were enacted, people were pushed outside to smoke. When smoking bans at entrances were implemented, people just moved further away to smoke. People are going to smoke regardless of what the law says. It's more important to enact policies that are effective and are supported by evidence.