Smoking Ban Debate

History and Debate of Smoking Ban

A smoking ban is a public policy that includes criminal laws and health regulations that prohibit smoking in certain public places and workspaces. There are varying definitions of smoking employed in this legislation. The strictest definitions define smoking as being the inhalation of any tobacco substance while the loosest define smoking as possessing any lit tobacco product.

There are many reasons why smoking bans originated, but most of these have medical origins. Research has shown secondhand smoke is almost as harmful as smoking in and of itself. The effects of secondhand smoke are relatively the same as smoking. Lung disease, heart disease, bronchitis and asthma are common. Those who live in homes with smokers have a 20-30 percent higher risk of developing lung cancer than those who do not live with a smoker. Many see it as unfair that others have to suffer the effects of secondhand smoke when they are not able to make the decision for exposur to it. Non-smokers who worked with smokers experienced a 16-19 percent increase in lung cancer rates. In this case, the worker had no choice but to face exposure to the smoke. Smoking bans remove these risks for many people. The National Cancer Institute, Surgeon General of the United States and National Institutes of Health all support smoking bans because of the statistics of second-hand smoke.

Smoking bans are also imposed because they improve air quality in restaurants and other establishments. In New York, it is now illegal to smoke in all hospitality venues. Studies by the Center for Disease Control have shown the air quality in New York establishments to be nine times higher than those in New Jersey where smoking remains legal. Studies have also shown employees are exposed to far fewer toxins in areas where smoking is banned in the workplace. In Norway, tests showed a decrease in the nicotine levels of both smokers and nonsmokers when smoking bans were enacted in the workplace.

Critics of Smoking Bans

Despite the positive effects on health and air quality, many people are still opposed to smoking bans in the United States. Critics in the smoking ban debate include the well-known musician Joe Jackson as well as Christopher Hitchens, a political critic. Usually, people who oppose smoking bans see these laws as an example of the government interfering in people's lives. They look at the effects on smokers, not those on non-smokers who are subjected to second-hand smoke. Other critics emphasize the rights of the property owner and draw distinctions between public places, such as government buildings, and privately owned businesses, such as stores and restaurants.

Some critics of smoking bans believe that outlawing smoking in the workplace may cause smokers to simply move their smoking elsewhere. Instead of smoking indoors, workers may begin smoking in public parks and exposing a new set of people to their secondhand smoke. Some have even argued that local bans on smoking will increase DUI fatalities. Those who wish to smoke will be forced to drive further away to do so, althoughno evidence has been found to support this theory.

Smoking bans in public places are becoming more and more common in the United States. Whether the rights of the non-smoker to breathe in fresh air outweigh those of the smoker to smoke freely is a matter of opinion, manifesting itself in a heated smoking ban debate.

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