Anti-smoking advocates are increasing their efforts to ban public smoking by supporting efforts to ban smoking outdoors in public places. I for one couldn’t agree more. I'm a person who from time to time enjoys a good cigar, but I encourage any effort to ban smoking in public places. Your right to enjoy a good smoke doesn’t give you the right to pollute the air I breathe and force me to share that puff with you. The studies are voluminous on the dangers of second-hand smoke. Not even the most ardent freedom lover can deny that your right to smoke doesn’t preclude my right to breathe. The Centers for Disease Control found that “secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and several health conditions in children.” The CDC recommends that smoking be completely eliminated in all enclosed public spaces.
USA Today reports that “30 of the 50 largest cities in America are smoke free” and the majority of those “prohibit smoking in all indoor areas of private workplaces, restaurants and bars.” The Atlantic noted that “over a thousand U.S. cities and counties (and several states) have some type of smoke-free law indoors, and hundreds more have laws regulating smoking in public parks.” But the next frontier is outdoor public places.
How many of us have been walking down the street and had a passerby exhale a cloud of smoke in your general direction? Or have gone to a public beach and had trouble finding an area that wasn’t one giant ashtray. I applauded the ban on cigarettes in restaurants, bars, and clubs. I was tired of smelling like an ashtray and I welcomed the turn of the tide that saw smokers huddled outside while the rest of us were able to continue to enjoy our meal, drinks, and music. I equally support the ban on smoking at beaches, outdoor sports arenas, and parks. If we continue to expand smoke-free zones throughout the country, then the incidence of disease resulting from second-hand smoke will be greatly reduced.
Cities like New York, San Francisco, and Philadelphia have taken the bull by the horn and banned smoking in most public places. Enforcement of smoke-free laws can be problematic, but studies have shown that just the law itself can influence people to quit smoking. Universities across America have taken up the charge to eliminate smoking in public spaces by becoming smoke free campuses. The Atlantic reports that “over 800 college campuses” are smoke free. The Atlantic declared that a smoke-free environment “is becoming exponentially more common.”
In large urban areas a campuses’ smoke-free policy could extend to govern the surrounding streets. In the District of Columbia, George Washington University has gone smoke free and district law allows the university “to regulate smoking within 25 feet of its buildings.” Some of America’s largest campuses are eliminating smoking, including the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, and the City University of New York. Even in the tobacco loving state of Kentucky, its flagship campus, the University of Kentucky, has gone smoke free. CNN said that since UK went smoke free “an increasing number of people have sought tobacco treatment services.”
US News reported that “ten of the 20 largest cities without comprehensive smoke-free laws are in the South.” What is it about the South? I’m from the South (rural Alabama) and it always puzzles me how the region with the highest percentage of citizens without health care, would also be resistant to anything that addresses good health habits.
According to US News “nearly half of Americans are protected by state or local smoke-free laws.” Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health said “all Americans could be protected from secondhand smoke exposure in workplaces and public places by 2020.”