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Banning Smoking in Public Places

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The issue as to whether a smoking ban should or should not be put in place is very controversial. People who have never smoked have often expressed their desire to have a smoking ban put in place. However, smokers feel that this would be a personal infringement on their personal freedom. Given that smoking is addictive and it is a habit that one does not explicitly decide whether or not to dispense of, it is understandable from the smoker’s side of view why they have avidly put up a spirited defense for smoking especially in public places (David 2).

Smoking bans were first put in place in 1590 by Pope Urban VII whereby people were excommunicated if found smoking close to a church. However, this debate gained momentum in the 20th century after various researchers found the effects of smoking to be detrimental not only to the smoker but also to those around them. California was the first state to issue a ban on smoking in restaurants in 1990. Since then, over thirty four American states have put in place similar anti-smoking laws (Dusenberry 2-6). In the past, the onset of smoking signified adulthood with this image being propagated by adverts of famed stars. However, this trend has been declining in the recent past due to health concerns and various bans in cities. There are various pros in favor of the ban on smoking in public places (Hazards Magazine 12).

First, health concerns have been constantly raised as to the dangers posed by smoking. The Surgeon General has persistently warned of these dangers as indicated on each pack of cigarettes as to the personal health concerns posed by smoking to the consumer. In fact, recent studies have proved that those close to smokers face similar or even graver health risks. Therefore, for this purpose, the health risks faced by smokers are similar to those faced by those in their neighborhood such as family members or friends. Cigarette smoking is not only detrimental to one’s health but also harmful to one’s physique and teeth.

Secondly, studies have shown that smoking is detrimental not only to the smoker but also to those around them thereby putting them at a risk commonly referred to as passive smoking. This is especially the case for ‘unwilling’ smokers especially in public places like bars, restaurants and around children. The inhalation of second-hand smoke through involuntary smoking has been found to be as injurious to the person’s health as to the actual smoker. Medical experts have found that there are various effects of passive smoking in adults and children. Pickworth states that‘the results indicate that, contrary to the belief of many consumers, bidi and additive-free cigarettes deliver substantial amounts of nicotine and other toxic components of tobacco smoke to the passive smoker’ (p.22)Minor side-effects to passive adult smokers are: sore throat, cough, headache, eye irritations, nausea and infections in the nose and ears. Long-term effects of passive smoking are lung cancer, pneumonia, hypertension, asthma, tuberculosis and bronchitis. Other diseases may not be chiefly caused by passive smoking, but it in effect increases risks are: heart diseases, dementia, brain tumors, renal cell carcinoma and diseases associated with the circulatory system. In children, passive smoking results in even more risky effects since children have a weaker immune system. Cases of bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, allergies and ear, throat and lung infections have been documented. In fetus, passive smoking has been found to cause: Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, premature births, low birth weights and failure in the production of sufficient baby milk by the affected mothers. Finally, cigarette smoke harms the reproductive system in males and females as well as the unborn baby. In men, cases of low sperm count, increased proportions of deformed sperms, unwarranted adjustments in the sex hormones such as testosterone, reduced sperm mobility, and cases of impotence have been reported. In females, smoking leads to higher exposure to a number of risks, such as miscarriage and premature birth, irregular menstrual cycles, early menopause, stroke in those over 35 years old, and increased incidences of cancer of the cervix. The unborn baby is put at various risks, such as low child birth weight, which may lead to prolonged difficulties during subsequent growth and development, and a high probability of occurrence of cleft clip and respiratory illnesses (Yap 1). In view of these facts, public smoking is not only detrimental to the smokers themselves but also to non-smokers, a ban on smoking should be hastily put in place to counter all these effects.

Thirdly, the cost of smoking to the individual and to the expenses incurred by the state due to health problems and loss in productivity has been of concern. In 2008, a pack of cigarettes had a retail price that was ranging from $4 to in excess of $7. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control carried out a study that estimates that each pack of cigarettes smoked leads to an expenditure in each state of as much as $16 on average due to expenditure on health and loss in productivity. Therefore, a ban on smoking would serve to eliminate these costs. A ban would also ensure that these costs are recovered by instituting a levy on cigarettes so as to discourage smoking. This was the case in Texas, whereby it made $1.4 million from cigarette tax revenue (Byrne 8).

Fourthly, smoke is not only an air pollutant, and should therefore be eliminated, but it also has an unpleasant smell, discolors clothing, decorations in homes and furniture. If a smoking ban is successfully put in place, it would eliminate these undesirables while saving on costs associated with filtering and cleaning.

Finally, smoking in public encourages children to take up the habit in line with the view that children model the behavior of adults. A ban on smoking shall ensure that lesser children take up smoking since it shall be viewed as wrongful rather than a mature lifestyle. Most smokers start smoking in order to fit in. A soon-to-be smoker’s environment may be heavily influenced by parents or friends who are regular smokers. For instance, it is a well-known fact that most people start smoking during their teenage years. Peer pressure is responsible for recruiting new smokers, who then become life-long cigarette consumers. In addition, teenagers and the youth tend to idolize and emulate the actions of celebrities and other well-known societal figures. Hence, when celebrities appear in adverts or movies while smoking, the young generation picks up this habit believing that it is fashionable. Once one becomes a regular smoker, it becomes almost impossible to quit.

However, opponents to this law have come up with various arguments against the ban on smoking. Key among them is that a ban on smoking implies an infringement on people’s personal right to freedom. This right, as instituted in the United States Bill of Rights, is contravened by any attempts to limit this personal freedom therefore such a ban should not be put in place owing to the superiority of the constitution.

Secondly, this is a hypocritical approach since other chemicals such as alcohol, preservatives and junk foods have been found to have more detrimental and immediate effects on the consumer. For instance, the recent wave of obesity and coronary and heart problems have been associated with junk foods which various research analyses have shown to be causing more deaths than cigarette smoke. This is widely felt by such opponents to the smoking ban such as Ray who feels that ‘Smoking/Air Pollution: is there much difference? Breathing polluted air is similar to smoking 20 cigarettes a day.’ Further, pollution in the environment and in the air is being caused more by large industries. A mere smoke’s air pollution is negligible when compared to the large amount of toxic wastes released by various unethical global giants (p.6).

Thirdly, opponents to the institution of this ban feel that cigarette smoking has been given more attention than due while negating major causes of health problems and mortality. Therefore, this spotlight on tobacco and its classification as a taboo may lead to more smokers since humans love trying what is classified as a taboo in society. This may also lead to youngster taking up smoking behind closed doors as has been the case with substance abuse. Further, smoking withdrawal symptoms by smokers may lead to a decline in their productivity. For instance, some people may start smoking when experiencing a transition phase. Individuals have been known to start smoking when undergoing stressful situations or significant changes in their lives. For instance, a recently divorced man may turn to alcohol and cigarettes in order to avoid thinking about his predicament. Furthermore, stressed and overburdened employees may choose to take breaks at specific intervals during which they share cigarettes as they converse about their situation. Therefore, a non-smoker is soon initiated in the group as this symbolizes a common bond of friendship. In addition, some smoke in order to calm their nerves. Although nicotine’s soothing effects do not last long, a smoker derives a sense of confidence and calmness when facing situations that make one anxious or exited (Ditcher 1).

Finally, a ban on public smoking will have an adverse effect on the commercial front. Businesses such as the British American Tobacco shall experience lower sales which may lead to loss of jobs and revenue as they downsize in order to fit into the shrinking market. Also, a significant source of funding to the treasury is the taxes levied on cigarettes which shall be lost with reduced consumption. Further, smoking is more of a lifestyle and people normally visit some social sites such as bars to smoke. Banning smoking in such zones leads to a loss in business for such joints leading to their eventual closure.

In conclusion, all the above cons do not serve as a basis on which a sound argument against the implementation of the ban on smoking can be nullified. Despite the fact that cigarette smoking is harmful to one’s health, a fact that smokers know too well, most people experience difficulties in their attempt to quit smoking. Whereas one is free to choose whether to smoke or not, the decision to quit is not always straightforward. Quitting requires willpower and personal commitment in order to overcome this harmful habit. Although most smokers feel good during and after smoking, there are no documented health advantages. Smoking harms the consumer as well as those close to him or her. Although smoking is a personal decision, its side effects are felt by the user, one’s immediate family, and the community at large.  Therefore, it is imperative to raise awareness amongst active smokers and non-smokers. This will not only help smokers quit cigarettes but shall also deter non-smokers from joining their counterparts. In view of the multiple health problems associated with smoking and the expenses incurred, a ban should be put in place so as to reverse this trend. 

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