Should public smoking be outlawed everywhere?
- Smoking rates in the US has been decreasing since the 1950s, where it peaked at 45%, but has fallen decade by decade, going all the way down to 24% in the 2000s. In 2008, the largest demographic of smokers by age were those 18-29.
- A 2018 Gallup poll found that “25% of U.S. adults support an outright smoking ban.”
- In 2019, the number of worldwide smokers totaled 1.1 billion. The CDC estimated the number of current smokers amounts to around 34.1 million (or 14%) of US adults.
- According to the CDC, tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year worldwide. In America, smoking is the number one preventable cause of death, resulting in 480,000 deaths nationwide, of which 41,000 are from secondhand smoking.
- A study funded by the Medical Research Council in England found that there are certain DNA factors that determine the level of risk for developing diseases from long-term smoking.
The question around public smoking is not about if smoking is bad, which it is, but whether this habit should be outlawed in public spaces. New Zealand has recently aimed to decrease cigarette consumption through legislation. While an ambitious policy goal in theory, in practice, bans become a doorway for something more dangerous, such as limiting personal freedom of choice and will likely not reduce smoking, as smokers will simply increase their private indoor smoking, which could impact those around them.
First of all, laws that restrict public smoking are fundamentally a restriction of a citizen's ability to exercise free action (in this case, consumption) in public spaces. For a clear social and historical example of what government regulation of vices brings about, the American era of Prohibition against alcohol is a good example. Prohibition was intended to bring about progress by eliminating a vice throughout the Roaring Twenties. Instead, it produced unemployment, corruption, and overall dissatisfaction among the American public, resulting in the emergence of a black market (called 'bootlegging') and wide societal unrest. And it is not surprising to see similar attitudes of non-compliance for smoking bans and young people skirting around these ineffective policy measures.
It is likewise noteworthy how the smoking industry is a source of employment for many people, producing high taxes for the government. And as a market that satisfies its consumers' needs, it is already heavily regulated. But the main argument for opposing a ban on public smoking is inherently a moral one. As Christopher Hitchens puts it, it is essentially un-American to have a government one-size-fits-all solution to what should be resolved by freedom of choice. Outlawing smoking ultimately extends the line of what is acceptable for the government to take away from its people.
Secondhand smoke is a crucial health concern that affects both humans and pets. It carries a significant potency for exposure to cancer, respiratory diseases, stroke, and coronary heart diseases. For these reasons, there has been a global movement favoring banning public smoking everywhere. The need to achieve the goal is based on the following:
Employees and customers are entitled to healthy business places.
Business owners and employees should create and maintain a healthy business place for everyone. Doing so keeps everyone on the premises safe. Secondhand smoke is a significant contributor to an unhealthy business place, putting everyone's health at risk. Banning public smoking doesn't just help businesses create a healthy space; it can prevent lawsuits.
Outlawing public smoking also means healthier parks, sidewalks, parking lots, and other public places as there are fewer cigarette butts to litter these public spaces when there is less smoking. Cigarette butts are the world's most littered plastic item. Besides deriving the environment its aesthetic appeal, they also threaten marine life and plant growth. Banning public smoking would significantly reduce this specific type of litter and activity.
Lastly, the treatment of secondhand smoke health illness is costly. As mentioned above, smoking doesn't exclusively affect the smoker but also those around them. Secondhand smoke has been proven to cause a range of respiratory illnesses, cancer, stroke, coronary heart diseases, and nearly 35,000 “premature deaths.” Treating these conditions requires a hefty savings as medical costs are rising in the modern era.
Banning public smoking would minimize the frequency of smoking. Besides, it also saves new potential smokers by increasing the restrictions around the previously casual behavior. Overall less exposure to smokers will likely result in fewer people wanting to be smokers, especially the younger generation.