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Arguments For and Against a Ban on Smoking in Public Places

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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 [].
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:

· [IMAGE]Lung disease - (see page 2 for details)

· Heart disease - (see page 2 for details)

· Emphysema – a lung condition in which the alveoli or air sacs break


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

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.’ [ --].

[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

* 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.’ [ --]

* 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

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.

[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.


All images were taken from:

With the exception of the ASH and FOREST

Logos each of which were taken from their

Respective websites:


How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Arguments For and Against a Ban on Smoking in Public Places." 23 Apr 2014

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