Smoking in public places has become a big issue in today’s society. Many people are up in arms about the subject and people on both sides of the argument feel that the subject is unfair and unjust. Banning smoking in public places is arguably unfair to smokers and takes away from their freedom; on the other hand, however, not banning it is unfair to the nonsmokers and puts our health in danger making it unsafe for us to go to public places where there are smokers.
I do understand that smokers have certain rights here in the United States. We claim to be a nation of freedom and equality so therefore I understand the point of view of smokers that not allowing them to smoke in public is taking away their freedom. However, do nonsmokers not have the right to their health? Do nonsmokers not have the right to clean air? Do nonsmokers not have the right to be able to go to public places without being suffocated by cigarette smoke?
Secondhand smoke is the smoke that is given off when burning a pipe, cigar, or cigarette mixed with the smoke that is exhaled from the lungs of smokers (2). Just a few of the 250 dangerous, toxic, cancer causing chemicals in secondhand smoke include formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide (2). All of these chemicals are extremely dangerous poisons and would never enter the body where it not for breathing secondhand smoke. Avoiding secondhand smoke is very hard because about one in four people smoke (2).
Secondhand smoke is very dangerous for many different reasons and it has been proven that it is more dangerous than smoking a cigarette yourself. There are many health factors that come along with secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke causes irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat (2). It also irritates the lungs and causes coughing and chest discomfort as well as excessive phlegm (2). There have also been cases where some people will break out in hives when exposed to it. The dangerous chemicals that are in secondhand smoke cause many different diseases and health issues and are the basis behind the raise for concern.
Secondhand smoke increases the risk of fatal and nonfatal coronary heart disease by about 30% (1). In studies smokers had less of a risk or problem with coronary heart disease than the people exposed to second hand smoke (1). Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of lung and other cancers as well as other respiratory problems and accounts for 53,000 deaths each year in the United States (1). 3,000 of these deaths alone are from lung cancer in non smokers and approximately 22,000 are from heart disease in nonsmokers (2).
Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous in children. It has been found that children who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from lung diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis and many others and have a higher risk of developing asthma (2). It is also shown that children who breathe secondhand smoke have more ear infections than children whose parents shield them from the dangers (2). There are approximately 150,000 – 300,000 cases each year of children under 18 months of age with infections from second hand smoke which results in around 7,500 -15,000 hospitalizations each year (2). It has also been found that one of the added reasons for sudden infant death syndrome is secondhand smoke or having a parent or guardian that regularly smokes. Secondhand smoke is also known to cause problems and issues in fetuses of mothers who are exposed to it.
The fact that secondhand smoke is more dangerous to children raises a very big concern to parents. As parents we should wish to protect our children from harm and in doing that we need to keep them away from secondhand smoke. Parents have to be careful of where they allow their children to go because of smoking these days. We want to keep them safe and their lungs healthy and to do that we have to monitor where we can and cannot take them. This is taking away from the children because they may not be able to go out to eat or go to some arcades or bowling alleys because of the risks involved in submersing them in cigarette smoke.
Aside from all of the dangerous diseases and problems that second hand smoke can cause some people have allergies to cigarette smoke or have other health issues such as COPD, asthma, or other breathing issues that cause them pain and suffering if they are exposed to cigarette smoke. These people, my daughter and myself included, cannot go to public places where there is smoke in the air without putting our health in jeopardy. Therefore allowing smoking in public areas keeps us from being able to enjoy public functions. We cannot just decide to go to a restaurant or other public area or function without first having to find out if they allow smoking and preparing for our health issue before we can go if they do. Because of this issue the nonsmokers are being unfairly overlooked by allowing smoking in public areas.
The main reason that we should ban smoking in restaurants and other public areas is because the smoke does not remain solely in the smoking area. Having a smoking area and a nonsmoking area in a building is better than having everyone mixed together and I will admit to that however; if you drop food coloring in water doesn’t it spread? Smoke has the same effect and anyone who has ever paid attention to it will notice that fact. Smoke spreads from the smoking section all through the building in the air, therefore spreading the dangers with it. For this reason smoking should not be allowed in public buildings.
There are many different ways to protect ourselves from secondhand smoke. The most obvious is to stay away from it and that is where the basis for banning smoking in public areas has arose. There are however other ways to protect ourselves and our families and these include never smoking in your home or allowing others to smoke in your home and if someone must smoke inside limit them to a well ventilated room that is cut off from the remainder of the house, choose restaurants, daycares, and schools that are smoke free, and remember that many of the dangerous chemicals that come from secondhand smoke remain even after the cigarette, pipe, or cigar is gone (2). As stated by U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona the only way to control secondhand smoke is by making indoor areas smoke free (3).
Perhaps I am on the side that I am on because of my allergy to secondhand smoke as well as my daughters or perhaps simply because of thinking about what it does to our bodies. I have family members who smoke and also understand the flip side of things, but the family members that smoke are also courteous and don’t smoke around the nonsmokers in our family. I do however personally believe that if smokers want to put their own health in danger that that is fine, but putting nonsmokers or children’s health in danger because they don’t want to be separated or don’t want to have to just smoke at home or in their cars is uncalled for.
Smoking in public areas and weather or not to ban it is definitely a hot issue today. Smokers do have a right to their freedom; however the entirety of the United States has a right to be able to remain smoke free and have freedom from secondhand smoke. Whether a decision will ever be made that will be fair to both sides of the issue will be reached is unknown. The government continues to weigh the risks of secondhand smoke with the number of angry smokers. If the issue is truly looked into and the risks are truly weighed I do hope and believe that our government will decide it is better to look out for our health.
1. Barnoya, J. Secondhand Smoke: The evidence of danger keeps growing. The American Journal of Medicine, volume 116, Issue 3, pages 201-202. February 1, 2004. Accessed April 29, 2007. http://www.amjmed.com/article/PIIS0002934303006934/fulltext >
2. Second Hand smoke and your family. American Lung Association, August 2006. Accessed April 29, 2007.
3. Kaufman, Marc. U.S. Details Dangers of Second Hand Smoking. Washington Post. June 28, 2006. Accessed April 29, 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/27/AR2006062700710.html >