Officials in New York City are considering implementing a ban on smoking in outdoor public spaces. This would include 14 miles of public beaches, along with all boardwalks, plazas and marinas, as well as 1,700 parks. The ban on public smoking would also prevent people from smoking in NYC’s Times Square. While they wouldn’t be the first city to put such bans into effect, they would certainly be the largest.
Why Ban Outdoor Smoking?
There are two main reasons why people are in support of banning outdoor smoking in New York City. The first and main reason is second-hand smoke. As most of us have heard, second-hand smoke is considered to be even more dangerous than what the smokers draw into their lungs. Filled with more harmful chemicals and pollutants, second-hand smoke can irritate people who suffer from asthma or bronchitis, it increases the risk of heart disease and blood clots and second-hand smoke is a known risk factor in lung cancer. Many people say that allowing smoking to continue in public places, even outdoors, unfairly exposes children and non-smokers to these dangerous chemicals.
Littering is the second reason that many people support the ban on public smoking in New York City. While cigarette butts may break down over time, they are still an unsightly mess and there are many individuals who think nothing of just dropping a cigarette butt down where-ever they are. This could be on the sidewalk, in a public park or even in flowerbeds and fountains. This doesn’t mean that everyone who smokes is this inconsiderate but, over time, discarded butts can create a horrible mess.
Alternatives They’re Left With
If the ban goes into effect and people are no longer allowed to smoke in public places, where will they be allowed to smoke? In a nutshell, people will either have to smoke at home or wait until they are in their cars (mind you, a vast number of New Yorkers either walk, bike or use public transportation like buses or taxi cabs). Needless to say, this has many of the smokers up in arms.
Many smokers claim that, when smoking outside, the second-hand smoke dissipates into fresh air. This may seem like a valid argument, but anyone who has ever stepped out of a restaurant, and encountered a smoker standing outside the door, will probably disagree. Unless it’s a nice breezy day, cigarette smoke tends to hover in the air, much like any other kind of smoke. While it does disappear more quickly outside, as opposed to in an enclosed room, the effects are not immediate. Because the smoker is accustomed to the smell of their cigarettes and smoke, they simply don’t realize it’s still hovering around them.
There is a greater argument, aside from health factors, however. Many New Yorkers feel as if their rights are being stripped away. If this proposed ban on smoking in public places goes into effect, it’s just one more right that is being stolen from them. Many compare it to something akin to prohibition and others compare it to Nazi-era control tactics and fascist regime. The proposed ban on public smoking in New York City leaves many people wondering who’s next and what other rights can be taken away for the supposed “good of the people.”
Why Keep Smoking Legal?
During my lifetime, I’ve seen days when cigarettes were allowed in airport terminals, on buses, in shopping malls and restaurants, and I’ve watched the progression to elbow the smokers out of the way. I’ve watched taxes raise…raise again and raise even further after that, and I’ve often been left to question why the government bothers to keep smoking legal when it’s so obviously toxic. Is it because the government fears the remaining smokers will rise up and rebel in one glorious nic-fit? Do they fear a repeat of prohibition if they add tobacco to their list in the war on drugs? Or is it that they simply enjoy collecting more and more taxes from tobacco-addicted individuals? Suffice it to say that, while I receive all kinds of cigarette offers in my mailbox, I never received a government-issued coupon for an unlimited supply of free nicotine patches, gum, hypnosis sessions or whatever it would take to get a person to quit smoking.
There is a saying, that applies, when you’re trying to quit smoking – “You can’t quit until you WANT to.” The same goes for the government. If they really want people to quit, they have to give them the incentive. Sure, a healthier life should be incentive enough, but offering support would be better. Raising stress by further taxation isn’t a very helpful option. Is banning public smoking?
Will the Ban Work?
In all honesty, people made a fuss when they segregated smokers off from non-smokers in the restaurants and they fussed again when smoking was banned from shopping malls and retail stores. I can remember when they first designated our local mall smoke-free, and how I joked with my mother about how criminal it felt, having to go stand outside the mall and smoke. It reminded me of those “bad kids” who huddled around the side of the high school building and smoked.
In time, however, my irritation wore off and it ceased to be something joke-worthy. If you wanted to smoke, you simply went outside. Simple and easy. People had no qualms about telling others to step outside their homes if they wanted to smoke and, as a smoker, I can honestly say that I never took offense at someone asking me to step outside to light up. In a nutshell, smoking outside became commonplace. It was an inconvenience, at times, but we adjusted. We’re humans. We’re adaptable.
Will a ban on public smoking work? For some, sure. Of course, just as we had those kids that stood around the side of the school, you’re still going to get people who smoke outside, in public places. Unless someone’s planning on solving the nation’s unemployment problem by putting everyone on the payroll to police their neighbors, chances are that people are going to continue to light up on the sly.
Bald-Headed Nudists from Outer Space? Nah – They’re Just New Yorkers!
Additionally, while we’re addressing second-hand smoke, there is still an issue of third-hand smoke, the residue that clings to smokers’ clothing, hair and objects. Recent studies have found that this residue is potentially harmful to people, particularly children. So how do we protect ourselves from this, short of making smokers shave their heads and walk around nude? Is that next on our government’s agenda?
I’m proud to say that I quit smoking 5 years ago, and I feel much better for it… but let me also say this: Punishing smokers and sending them to their rooms is not the answer – Try punishing the companies that are producing the cigarettes or, better yet, give them incentive to close down and find other forms of business to invest in. While it may sound like a quick fix and some of the people may abide by the proposed ban, the truth of the matter is that the problem isn’t being fixed – it’s just being hidden.
And for the record, while a ban may be one thing, the day they turn the remaining smokers into a bald-headed nudist colony, I’m running for Canada!
Personal experience, being an ex-smoker after 20 years of nicotine addiction
http://abcnews.go.com/WN/bloomberg-considers-banning-smoking-outdoor-public-places-good/comments?type=story&id=11652067 – Information on the proposed ban
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/secondhand-smoke/CC00023 – The dangers of second-hand smoke