Arguments For and Against a Ban on Smoking in Public Places

Arguments For and Against a Ban on Smoking in Public Places
The tobacco plant is native to the America?s and was first imported to England in the 1560?s by Sir John Hawkins, an English slave trader. Tobacco itself received a cold reception on the continent and throughout the 16th and 17th centuries harsh punishments including ?lip-slitting? in Russia and even the death penalty in Turkey, were imposed on those caught ?lighting up? in public places. However, despite a threat of excommunication from the church by Pope Clement viii, smoking became increasingly popular with Europeans, with the first Cuban cigars being sold in London in 1835 [www.forest.org]. Paper-rolled cigarettes followed (1832), with the first UK based cigarette factory opening several years later (1856) in Walworth. Changing social attitudes saw smoking becoming a socially acceptable past time amongst all classes of society. This ideal furthered with both the Great War and World War II during which a staggering 80% percent of soldiers smoked, and cigarettes were rationed alongside other necessities such as food and clothing. Though experiments carried out as early as 1964 By US surgeon General Luther Terry [? Encarta 2000] showed that smoking could lead to lung cancer, the health risks associated with smoking tobacco were largely unknown or treated with a mild scepticism. Over time however, improved scientific testing, health discoveries and subsequent campaigns by the Government led to an increased awareness of the detrimental effects of smoking. These include, to name but a few:
Cataracts ? an eye problem that can cause blindness, even former smokers run 60% risk of developing cataracts [? Biology For You] In turn, this manifest itself namely in a public demand for reform on the laws on the advertising (1970 to date) and the selling of cigarettes. More importantly, recent research shows that non-smokers, too, are put at risk of many smoking related diseases? via exposure to passive smoking. This is defined by the UK media as the inhalation of smoke from the cigarettes / pipes / cigars of others. [image]Subsequently, in today?s increasingly litigious society, there developed a strong public demand for reform on the law, or lack of laws, on smoking in the work environment / public places and the health impact this has on affected employees and non-smokers. Currently in the limelight due to a ban proposed by Government on smoking in ?all enclosed public places and workplaces by the end of 2007? as well as ?all restaurants and pubs and bars preparing and serving food by the end of 2008? [? Public Health White paper, issued 16/11/04], high-profile smoking bans have already been implemented in New York (29/03/2003) and Ireland (29/03/2004) in response to similar pressures. www.images.google.co.uk In England, the highly controversial proposed ban has sparked mixed reactions from both the public and politicians alike, with both sides actively voicing their viewpoints to a receptive public audience. The main campaigning lobby in favour of the ban are Action on Smoking and Health (ash) ? a public health charity that aims to ?generate the public and political impetus for the measures that will reduce tobacco use and ultimately tackle the epidemic of disease and death that it causes.? [ ? www.ash.org.uk]. www.ash.org.uk [image]The organisation uses mass-media campaign to publicise what they believe is justification of such a ban. These largely focus on the health issues raised by passive smoking (or second-hand smoke) in both adults and children. Indeed, second-hand smoke contains over 4000 chemicals including the highly toxic benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic and ammonia and whilst facts and figures vary, research completed as recently as 2004 by the National Health and Medical Research Council (nhmrc), International Agency for Research on Cancer (iarc) and the Government-appointed Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (scoth) show evidence that passive smoking can cause a number of harmful and even fatal diseases including:
Coronary artery disease ? ?a chronic disease in which the coronary
arteries gradually harden and narrow (atherosclerosis). Can lead
to serious health complications, including heart attack or even
cardiac arrest.? [ ?
www.heartcentreonline.com]
Lung cancer ? the most common cause of cancer death in both men
and women, passive smoking is responsible for around 12 new cases
of adult lung cancer in Australia alone. ?In most cases, it is not
found until it has spread to other parts of the body, like the
brain, liver or bones.? [? ?Why Quit? leaflet]
Symptoms of asthma
These findings are furthered by results of studies conducted by the Royal Colleges that conclude: ?passive smoking causes an estimated 1,000 deaths in adults each year and causes cot death, asthma, lung infections and middle ear disease in children? [? The Times Newspaper, 23rd June 2004] and a report by the British Medical Association [released 2002] that claims over 800 people in England die each year as a result of second-hand smoke. The main argument then forwarded by supporters of the ban is that this evidence suggests that an outright ban on smoking in public would be a sensible counter to the problem, and could save the nhs some of the millions it spends each year on the treating of smoking/passive smoking related diseases. In a similar vein, it is maintained by many that a ban on smoking in public places would encourage smokers to quit as well as deter non-smokers from taking up the habit, subsequently lowering the cost to the nhs of treating smoke related diseases even further, whilst simultaneously developing a more health-conscious society. Supporters of the ban also liken the idea to issues such as drink-driving or the compulsory wearing of seat belts in cars, in which the state introduced public health and safety measures, that whilst they may be viewed as an encroachment on people?s civil liberties, were nevertheless in need of address, in the interest of public safety (e.g. as drink-driving can lead to the driver injuring another party, so too can smoking via the effects of passive smoking). In addition to this, a ban would also deliver a positive environmental benefit through reduced litter as discarded cigarette wrappers, packets and cigarette ends present a significant litter impact, particularly in urban areas. A further direct consequence of the ban would be the reduction in the incidence of fires in public and licensed premises caused by the inappropriate disposal of smoking materials. This benefit could also be extended to reduction in household fires if the public ban www.forest-on-smoking.org.uk delivers the desired reduction in smoking addiction. [image]Countering the significant pressure from ash and other campaigning groups are the opponents of a ban, led by the tobacco companies and linked lobbying groups such as The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (forest). These organisations are continually fighting to counteract the health and social arguments that are increasingly being driven by the ?pro-ban? lobby. In opposing a ban, they endeavour to question the evidence presented by the anti-smoking lobby, with some key examples being outlined below. Firstly, they regard research claiming passive smoking is damaging to health as untrue, based on the fact that there have been almost 150 studies on passive smoking and overall the results are widely considered inconclusive. The lack of certainty on the effect of passive smoking gives good reason, they claim, not to fully ban it in public places. As a result, the group argues that a ban is often too extreme and that alternative compromises are just as easily implemented. A smoking ban in restaurants, for example, is unnecessary with the introduction of smoking and non-smoking areas. It is suggested that as long as there are certain levels of ventilation, extraction and air movement there is no justification for a total ban as passive smoking will be reduced significantly. Another popular argument is that a ban on smoking in pubs/clubs/cafes etc. could be damaging to businesses, significantly reducing their trade as some consider a pint/coffee and a cigarette go ?hand in hand?. With regards to smoking in the workplace, large numbers of people claim a cigarette can help them relax or concentrate in what is an increasingly stress-filled society. It is therefore argued that banning smoking in public places could damage staff morale, ultimately leading to poor productivity in the workplace. Finally, many are resentful of the ban and believe the section of the population that choose to enjoy smoking should not be demonised and marginalised by being threatened with legal bans. The freedom of 13 million adults should be respected and their lifestyle should be afforded a sense of measured tolerance. In addition, the ban itself would be authoritarian - an example of a non-smoking majority imposing its will over the smoking minority. www.images.google.co.uk [image]In conclusion, whilst the public accept limitations on freedom in many areas, e.g. adhering to a speed limit when driving, on the basis of the broad public good, conflicting reports on the severity of the health risk posed by passive smoking has inevitably created difficulties in the drawing of a boundary between the rights of smokers to exercise free choice and the rights of the public and employees not to be subjected to environmental pollution and associated health risks caused by a smoky atmosphere. As a result, many parties ?pro and anti ban- have been left dissatisfied by the proposals, which continue to remain both controversial and wide open to debate

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