Secondhand Smoking in Public Places

Introduction

Smoke-free legislation, which prohibits smoking in certain settings, reduces exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke and creates an environment that helps smokers to cut down or quit smoking” (Bhat et al., 2015, p. 87).

The above quote by Bhat et al. (2015) reveals the extent of harm caused to non-smokers, especially in jurisdictions where no strict rules have been established to address the issue of smoking in public places. However, complaints raised by non-smokers, health practitioners, and other interested stakeholders have pushed some regions in the U.S., including Kentucky and New York City, to implement stern measures that seek to reduce the extent of cigarette consumption in public settings (Frank, 2018).

Such strategies include increasing the cost of a pack of cigarettes and enacting laws that discourage this act. These approaches minimize threats posed to non-users, especially those who encounter smokers in public places such as restaurants, bars, or even administrative centers. Another category of scholars counter-argues that smoking in public settings does not cause any significant harm to non-smokers. However, regarding the topic of “Smoking in Public Places”, I support the idea of banning this act due to the available evidence linking the inhalation of cigarette smoke to three major harmful issues. This paper focuses on poor health among users and non-users, environmental pollution, and huge expenses incurred when treating those affected by secondhand smoking.

Argument

Smoking in public places threatens the health of non-smokers and smokers. The study by Bhat et al. (2015) upholds the idea of prohibiting smoking in public places such as pubs, hospitals, and educational centers. This strategy is an appropriate measure that safeguards the health of individuals in public places. For example, North East England is among regions that have outlawed smoking in social centers due to the threat that smokers pose to the well-being of people who do not consume cigarettes (Bhat et al., 2015).

Korzeniowska, Puchalski, and Korzeniowska (2018) present the issue of smoking in public “as an important health determinant of the working population” (p. 261). This claim explains why cigarette smoking should be prohibited because of the underlying effects it has on the health of the wider public (Offen, Smith, & Malone, 2013). Particularly, as revealed in the article by Frank (2018), close to 90% of citizens in the U.S. die of lung cancer that is directly linked to cigarette consumption in public settings.

It is crucial to point out that this number includes passive smokers whose lives are cut short due to inhaling cigarette smoke in public places such as schools and cafes among other social centers (Bhat et al., 2015). Hence, banning smoking in public is an appropriate approach to boosting the health of people not only in America but also around the globe.

Another reason why smoking in public places should be banned revolves around the huge expenditure incurred by various governments in managing related health complications. For example, a country such as Poland spends about PLN 18 billion per annum on hospital bills for patients suffering from tobacco-related ailments (Korzeniowska et al., 2018). This amount is expected to exceed 22 billion in the next 20 years following the increased number of individuals who will be seeking healthcare services to address issues related to secondhand smoking (Korzeniowska et al., 2018).

Families with one or more smokers end up being financially drained due to the high cost of acquiring several packs of cigarettes on a daily basis. For instance, as revealed in the study by Korzeniowska et al. (2018), a persistent tobacco user in Poland spends roughly PLN 2000 in 12 months. In the U.S., regions such as New York City have increased the price of a pack of cigarettes to approximately $13 (Frank, 2018). In addition to being exposed to tobacco-related health risks, financially unstable families are likely to experience depression associated with the lack of enough finances to cater for other crucial expenses, including food and rent.

Smoking in public places threatens the safety of the environment. According to Travers, Nayak, Annigeri, and Billava (2015), all people residing in a particular country have the liberty to consume air that is free from any pollutants. Smoking in public contributes significantly to environmental pollution because users release harmful chemicals into the air, which, in turn, finds its way to the bodies of other organisms, including animals and non-smokers.

It is imperative to point out that the U.S. has introduced measures that discourage environmental contamination. For instance, according to Travers et al. (2015), companies in the automobile industry have been encouraged to produce cars that meet a particular carbon-print threshold before they are allowed to operate. Secondhand smoke released to the atmosphere adds to the already saturated ozone layer, hence contributing to global warming, which, in turn, threatens the sustainability efforts put in place to safeguard flora and fauna (Travers et al., 2015).

The move to prohibit smoking in public places is expected to considerably reduce levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emitted to the atmosphere, hence minimizing the harm caused by global warming. For example, India implemented the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) of 2003 as a measure for protecting the environment from human carcinogens released in the form of smoke from tobacco and cigarette users (Travers et al., 2015). According to Navarro (2016), New York also passed laws prohibiting smoking in public places, including apartments, as an approach to ensuring that citizens and animals have access to clean air. Hence, in line with the position held in this paper, these policies prohibit the smoking of cigarettes in public places due to its associated negative environmental impacts.

Counter-Argument

The U.S. is among countries where smoking in public places is often considered part of citizens’ freedom. Hence, regardless of whether a smoker is in the house with family members, walking in the street in the presence of other passersby, or in a car that is full of passengers, it is almost impossible to be questioned when one decides to smoke. Although most of the available scholars depict public smoking as harmful, others hold a contrary opinion.

For example, Ekpu and Brown (2015) argue that the production and consumption of tobacco-related products is a reliable source of economic stimulus. Governments collect huge amounts of revenue from the tobacco industry. They use such profits for infrastructural developments and providing various public goods, including education. For instance, high-income nations such as China get about 7.4% of their total revenue from the tobacco industry (Ekpu & Brown, 2015). This finding implies that banning cigarette smoking in Chinese public places may lead to reduced profitability levels. In poorer countries, the tobacco industry generates employment in restaurants and bars where workers are expected to supply cigarettes for users.

However, Bhat et al. (2015) raise a strong rebuttal claiming that governments’ expenditure in diseases associated with smoking outweighs economic benefits that arise from tobacco products. High-income nations disburse about 15% of their health care allocations on smoking-related problems and diseases. For example, the UK spends approximately 2.7 to 5.2 billion Euros as direct costs of smoking (Bhat et al., 2015).

This expenditure accounts for 5 percent of the total NHS budget allocation. China incurs an economic burden of 0.7% of its GDP due to smoking (Bhat et al., 2015). Although premature deaths lead to savings in the form of pension payments (Ekpu & Brown, 2015), deaths related to tobacco smoking in public settings are alarming. For example, health challenges, including lung cancer, kill about 443,000 people in the U.S. annually (Bhat et al., 2015). Apart from causing fatalities, it also impairs countries’ productivity levels.

Nations struggle to protect individual rights by guaranteeing them in their respective constitutions. Hence, it is possible to counter-argue that restricting smoking in public places contravenes citizens’ fundamental freedoms. As Wilson, Goldstein, and Pennington (2015) assert, “Internal reports and guides for corporate spokespeople in the tobacco industry say that the individual rights approach is critical to the strategic defense of smoking” (p. 31).

Therefore, based on the premise of citizens’ civil liberties, people have the right of deciding to smoke in public or private places without any governmental interference. Restricting tobacco users’ smoking behaviors amounts to discrimination and hence a violation of their rights. Consequently, those who do not smoke have the privilege of avoiding public places that usually have a high number of smokers such as pubs. According to Wilson et al. (2015), it is unconstitutional to demand tobacco users not to smoke in public places to accommodate non-smokers.

Kozlowski (2013) rejects the above premise of promoting individual rights by allowing smoking in public places. According to this scholar, such a counterargument ignores some aspects of civil liberties such as the freedom from being harmed by others and the right to good health and life. It also compromises people’s freedom of living in an unpolluted environment (Kozlowski, 2013).

Conversely, the right of smoking in public settings should stop at the point where the smoker interferes with the right of another person’s freedom of living in an uncontaminated environment. Hence, allowing tobacco users to smoke in public places in line with their freedoms does not imply that they should interfere with the rights of non-smokers or even the environment. As Travers et al. (2015) assert, it is imperative to appreciate that all people and animals should be granted the privilege of consuming clean air, which, in turn, boosts their chances of remaining healthy.

Conclusion

Smoking in public places exposes people to health risks. It also compromises the well-being of other organisms, including animals, especially when they are forced to inhale excessive detrimental tobacco-related elements such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. New York City and Kentucky have established strategies that seek to ban smoking in public places due to the risk posed to people’s physical and financial health.

Secondhand smokers have been found to be exposed to the threat of lung cancer and depression among other complications associated with smoking in public places. Some scholars argue that smoking in public settings does not result in significant harm to people and the environment. This paper has refuted this position due to the available evidence depicting this act as extensively detrimental. The underlying benefits include improved health among the wider public, reduced medical expenses, and a sustainable environment.

The above advantages will force virtually all countries across the world to implement measures for prohibiting smoking in public settings in the future. For instance, the introduction of strict regulations, including increasing the cost of tobacco-related products, is recommended (Frank, 2018). This paper also suggests the idea of penalizing people caught smoking in public (Young, 2013). Should the U.S. ban smoking in public places?

References

Bhat, N., Oza, S., Reddy, J. J., Mitra, R., Patel, R., & Singh, S. (2015). Effect of anti-smoking legislation in public places. Addiction & Health, 7(1/2), 87-91.

Ekpu, V. U., & Brown, A. K. (2015). The economic impact of smoking and of reducing smoking prevalence: Review of the evidence. Tobacco Use Insights, 8, 1-35. Web.

Frank, R. H. (2018). Why even tougher regulations on smoking are justified. The New York Times. Web.

Korzeniowska, E., Puchalski, K., & Korzeniowska, E. (2018). Solving the problem of smoking in the Polish enterprises during 2003-2015. International Journal of Occupational Medicine & Environmental Health, 31(3), 261-280. Web.

Kozlowski, J. C. (2013). Park user challenges outdoor public smoking ban. Parks and Recreation, 48(3), 21-25.

Navarro, M. (2016). The U.S. will ban smoking in public housing nationwide. The New York Times. Web.

Offen, N., Smith, E. A., & Malone, R. E. (2013). “They’re going to die anyway”: Smoking shelters at veterans’ facilities. American Journal of Public Health, 103(4), 604-612. Web.

Travers, M. J., Nayak, N. S., Annigeri, V. B., & Billava, N. N. (2015). Indoor air quality due to secondhand smoke: Signals from selected hospitality locations in rural and urban areas of Bangalore and Dharwad districts in Karnataka, India. Indian Journal of Cancer, 52(4), 708-713. Web.

Wilson, K. M., Goldstein, C., & Pennington, K. (2015). Attitudes and practices about tobacco smoking at a Jesuits university: Cura personalis or individual rights? Jesuit Higher Education, 4(2), 28-36.

Young, B. (2013). Seattle OKs $27 fine for smoking pot in public. The Seattle Times. Web.