The paper critically evaluates the issue of banning smoking in public places. The paper puts forward arguments that try to support and justify why smoking in public places should be prohibited by law. At the same time, an opposing view (why smoking in a public place should not be banned) is also clearly presented. Smoking refers to the process of inhaling and exhaling fumes of a tobacco undergoing combustion. Pipes, cigars or cigarettes are the main forms of how smoking is done.
Public place has been defined as a publicly or privately owned, indoor or outdoor area open and accessible to all citizens by right or by call, articulated or oblique, whether by fee or not without considering their race, age, gender, socio-economic level, ethnicity. It does not include a place when used absolutely by one or more individuals for a confidential meeting or another personal purpose. Examples of public places include; cafes, restaurants, pubs, bus terminus, banks, shopping malls just to mention but a few.
In the traditional setting, smoking was mainly a concept of treating certain ailments and those found lighting up between 16th and 17th centaury were heavily punished, for instance in slipping of the lips and death penalty in Russia and turkey respectively but currently and in the recent past, smoking has been conceived by individuals in any given society as being stylistic hence increasingly a popular habit. This is largely attributed to the dynamism in social attitudes as smoking was socially accepted. Coupled with both the Great War and Second World War at which time close to 80% of soldiers were smokers, cigarettes used to be shared alongside other basic needs. Paradoxically, smoking has been believed to increase humans’ risk of being affected by lung cancer.
The issue of banning smoking in public places thought to be a remedy to reduce the health hazards, has been met with varying opinions as there are those individuals who strongly support the ban while on the other hand, there are those that actively try to oppose the whole idea. Both groups have very concrete reasons as to why they hold such opinions, for this reason it is a big issue in the society (Ledwell, p. 1). This thus forms the basis of this research paper as discussed below.
In the year 1950, Pope Urban VII is known to have imposed the first ban on smoking in history. Those who were found chewing tobacco or smoking were excommunicated from the church. It is worth noting that it was in the 20th century when the issues related to health as a result of smoking were brought to light and measures were sort to address the problem. The first state to ban smoking in U.S was California, 1960, subsequently, other states and countries followed suit.
The ban on smoking has its roots in extensive scientific research done that has proved that smoking is very harmful to both smokers and non-smokers. According to Ledwell, a small proportion of the 250 harmful, toxic chemicals that increase the risk of causing cancer include; hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, arsenic, benzene, ammonia and vinyl chloride (DirectGov, p. 4). These chemical compounds adversely affect secondhand smokers together with those who smoke through inhalation. It has been noted that avoiding secondhand smoking is a greater challenge as statistic in United States of America shows that out of four individuals, one person is a smoker.
According to a report published in 1988, secondhand smokers (passive smokers) are at risk of being cancer victims by between 10% and 32 %. A United States of America surgeon, Luther Terry (Encarta 2000) showed that lung diseases, asthma, emphysema, heart diseases and cataracts are among the health complication as a result of smoking. One notable researcher, Prof Markham believes that in spite of protecting the general public, ban on smoking will also encourage smokers to give up.
What seems to challenge this concept of banning smoking in public places, especially in U.S.A and other parts of the world is the idea of human freedom as smokers will be claimed their freedom has been taken away, while on the other hand non-smokers will argue that the freedom to have healthy lives have been denied if banning is not implemented (Ifsud, 3). Despite this challenge a decision has to be arrived at but only after closely and critically evaluating the arguments for and against the ban.
There are very strong and justified arguments that support imposition of ban on smoking in the public places. These include the following;
Reduce the risk of getting cancer complexions such as asthma, cataracts, heart diseases, lung diseases and emphysema among others. As stated earlier, smoking increases the chances of passive smokers encountering cancer by 10-32%. If it will be banned, then the individuals to be affected by cancer will significantly be cut down hence saving huge amount of money in treating smoke-related illnesses. For instance Ledwell noted that there are close to 150,000 – 300,000 cases of children (under 18 months) affected by second-hand smoke annually that leads to 7,500 – 15,000 hospitalization in a year. This could be brought down or completely be eliminated if the ban is imposed.
The ban also has a great potential of significantly reducing and curbing death as a result of effects of cigarette smoking on both the smokers and non-smokers. In California states, health officials roughly estimate that close to 3,400 Americans die from lung cancer although they are not smokers, 46,000 die as a result of heart disorders and 403 due to SIDS. Such scenario is evident in the United Kingdom as it kills 114,000 per year and globally, 3 million people die annually on account of smoking. All these huge numbers of human death can be brought down by simply banning smoking in public places. The ban will help reduce the high rate of infant morbidity.
It is also worth noting that banning smoking in public places will help government as well as individuals save money as well as generation of income by the government. Smoking bans usually come fine, community service or even jailing, the fast two (fines and community service) helps governments to generate revenue and save money respectively which then can be plowed to other activities vital in enhancing economic growth and development (Ledwell, 7). In addition, the public health will save billions of dollars that could be used in treatment of smoking-related diseases and money used in production and advertising will be used elsewhere for the benefit of the cities such as creation of infrastructure, job opportunities.
It will ensure a clean or a safer environment vital for good health of all individuals within a social setup. The smoke from tobacco has been noted to contribute to air pollution, thus when banned, the air will be rid of tobacco smoke. In addition, there is a possibility of a reduced litter from cigarette packets, filters and butts in the environment thus maintaining the aesthetic nature of our surroundings.
It has been strongly argued that banning smoking in public places will help smokers to relent from smoking as they will require to overcome the desire to smoke while in a public place. This is because of the understanding of the consequences of sanctions imposed upon them such as paying fines, doing community service, being recorded as a criminal or being jailed.
There is a great potential of reducing accident fires be they in a public or private place, as it has been noted that smokers carelessly dispose of cigarettes. Such disposals are done with putting off the fire in cigarettes which can cause fire destroying resources such as forests (savanna ecosystem, woodlands etc.), buildings and even human death. For instance most of the fire in the woodlands and savanna ecosystems in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania) are attributed to disposal of cigarettes that still have light.
The ban will also help enhance the general health of the public especially the newborn and smokers. Smoking has been documented to interfere with the sense of touch and hearing, prohibiting smoking in a public place if in the long run help capitulates smokers to quit, they will then be in a position to contribute effectively to the society. Smoking also negatively impact on the physical appearance of both smoker and non-smokers for instance, smokers’ teeth can change to yellow/black. Pregnant mothers will do away with smoking or reduce the frequency of smoking; this will ensure that the children they give birth to be healthy, resistant to infections and of normal weight thus reducing prenatal morbidity admission and child mortality (Markham, p. 6). A healthy society means that all will be reproductive hence low rate of unemployment and reduced dependency ratio.
Finally, the ban can help those people who are allergic to cigarette smoke to mingle with others and enjoy the public resources, its worth noting that individuals shun public places such as restaurants and casinos on the fear of smokes. Generally it will help reduce public disturbance and anger.
An opposing view
On the other hand, there are those who oppose the idea of banning smoking in the public places such as restaurants and have concrete reasons when also closely evaluated. These arguments include:
Damage to businesses and loss of job has been put forward as the negative implications by those who oppose ban on smoking. Restaurants, casinos, pubs officials or owners claim that they will lose customers who are smokers as a result of the ban, thus this is considered as being detrimental to their business development as there will be low income generated resulting in laying off of some employees creating unemployment which every country try to address. The ban will reduce the volume of cigarettes consumed and may lead to closing down of some cigarette manufacturing companies (Ifsud, pp. 1-2). Although, the opposition will try to justify the economic implication of the same, it will not in my view counter the economic benefits attained by banning smoking.
Those opposing the idea and mostly smokers claim that smoking of cigarette plays a vital role in ensuring that they are relaxed, calmed and thus concentrate on what they are assigned to do in their workplace which it is deemed to be a very stressful environment. The ban they believe will lower or destroy the morale of the staff resulting in low productivity due to inefficiency, communication and poor coordination. For instance, there are professionals such as teachers, technicians who cannot carry out their tasks, duties and responsibilities comfortably and to perfection without smoking.
It is also argued out that the ban infringes on human freedom as smokers believe their freedom of choice will be denied when told not to smoke in public. They say that smoking when banned will demonize and marginalize them and they add that the act in itself is an authoritarian system of ruling where the majority imposes sanctions to the minority (Markham, p. 3).
Another argument is that all the research done on passive smoking claiming that it enhances diseases in humans is not true. This is on the basis that closes to 150 scientific studies on passive smoking have inconclusive results that should not be relied upon in making decisions let alone banning smoking. For instance, it is said that the lack of certainty of smoking affects to health of second smokers should not be used to deny smokers the right to have freedom of choice.
From the discussion done in this paper, those who support banning smoking in the public places cited the following reasons; reduced risks of getting cancer, reduced number of death, save and or generate revenue to both the government and individuals, help in creating a more clean, safe and a healthy environment, reduced amount of litter as a result of cigarette butts, filters, packets, it may also capitulate smokers to quit smoking (Nellond, 9). The ban can significantly reduce incidents of fires in public and private places as well as households fires and finally help reduce public disturbance or anger as well as ensure each individual will have the opportunity to enjoy their stay in a public place without irritation or allergy to smoke.
On the other hand, those who oppose the idea of banning smoking in public places are of the opinion that their freedom of choice, a human right will be infringed, business people claim the ban will destroy their revenue generation, staff members who are smokers say that it will lower or destroy their morale hence poor productivity in the working place and that the studies carried out are inconclusive and have not without doubt depicted the effect of smoking to passive smokers.
All these arguments for and against banning smoking in public places leave the two groups inevitably between hard rock and a stone on whether or not to ban especially based on the rights of smokers and non-smokers. Despite all these challenges, a decision has to be made.
In my own opinion, due to the weight drawn behind the arguments in favor of banning smoking in public such as risks of getting cancer and the large number of death coupled with the need to have a clean and safer environment I would strongly advocate for the ban to be imposed to sate millions of dollars and people.
- DirectGov. New Health Bill Will Ban Smoking In Majority of Workplaces. 2005.
- Ifsud, Mariam. Ban smoking in Public Places. 2005.
- Ledwell, Sheena. Smoking in Public Places, to Ban or Not to Ban?. 2007.
- Markham, Alex. Ban Smoking in Public Places and Save Lives, Says Top Cancer Charity. 2004.
- Nellond, Alexadry. Why Smoking In Public Places Should Be Banned. 2008. Web.