Banning smoking outdoors is seldom ethically justifiable
- SIMON CHAPMAN, Editor
“Debate” is a new series offering opposing sides of a continuing, controversial issue in tobacco control. In this and the two responses that follow, the pros and cons of banning smoking outdoors are discussed by the Editor of Tobacco Control, Simon Chapman, physicist James Repace of Repace Associations in Bowie, Maryland, USA, and Michelle Bloch and Donald Shopland of the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, USA
Several Australian hospitals are proposing to extend their indoor smoking bans outdoors. In 1996, the mayor of Friendship Heights, Maryland similarly sought to ban smoking in municipal parks and on sidewalks. A leading non-smokers' rights advocate in Sydney has attracted publicity for his proposal to take civil action to have his suburban tennis club ban smoking in outdoor spectator areas, typically occupied by a handful of people waiting for courts to become vacant. In Kerala and Goa in India, smoking is banned in public spaces such as beaches, attracting fines.1
Such proposals “push the envelope” of tobacco control into areas where questions need to be asked to ensure tobacco control policies are firmly anchored to scientific evidence and especially concern those who value the freedom of individuals to do what they please to the extent that this does not harm others.2 They invite consideration of whether zero tolerance of public exposure to toxic agents is a reasonable policy for civil societies and whether the loudly proclaimed exquisite sensitivities of a small minority should drive public policy.
Further, they invite us to reflect on the extent to which these policies risk alienating a large number of people who might otherwise be supportive of efforts to reduce environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure in situations where there is significant risk or reduced amenity. In short, we need to ask whether efforts to prevent people …