Advantages Healthier environment for all
Disadvantages Blanket bans are flawed
I am a very light smoker, smoking about a pack a month, mostly when I drink and socialise and sometimes to break a very hectic or boring day at work.South Africa (where I'm from originally) introduced a ban on smoking in public places a number of years ago and it has been working very well. However, there are a few key differences between the ban that is being discussed for the UK - whilst smoking is fully banned in office buildings, malls and other indoor public places, it is still legal in bars and clubs and in some restaurants. For smoking to be allowed in a restaurant it must either take place outdoors in or in a separate section of the restaurant (or casino) which must be separated by a solid division and also have a separate ventilation system. This allows patrons and staff to make a choice about being in a smoking or non-smoking environment.
For me the issue is quite simple - all people have the right to breathe air that has not been polluted by the smoke of others, especially when in an enclosed space (inside). If you're outside and someone lights up, which they theoretically have a right to do, then you can either ask them to move or move yourself - pretty simple. When inside the smoke either permeates the whole area or the area itself is limited and so moving to somewhere else is simply not an option.Thus introducing a smoking ban indoors is quite reasonable since it will protect people's right to be in a non-smoking environment. However, there are many people who enjoy smoking when they've finished a meal or are in a restaurant or when they're having a drink in a bar or club. A potential solution to protect those who don't wish to be in a smoking environment and those who do would be to provide completely separated smoking areas, as we do in South Africa. Another potential solution is to have a restaurant, bar or club licensed as a smoking or non-smoking venue. This would be up to owner, would be signposted outside and would in turn attract the relevant clientelle as they made an informed choice for themselves. In addition, to protect or incentivise staff who choose to work in this area a premium could be charged to use this space. Something like adding £1 or 50p per smoker (or a smaller fee per cigarette) to the waiter's wage. Children younger than the legal age for smoking. This system does require some additional effort from all but allows for people to make their own choices and provides them with options. These rules could then be enforced quite strictly since people would be able to choose an appropriate venue for their smoking or non-smoking preferences.
My final suggestion would be to intrpduce the bans one at a time rather than asking people to change ingrained and culturally normal behaviour in the blink of an eye. Start by banning smoking in workplaces and government buildings. Then 6 or 12 months later ban smoking in malls and shopping venues. 6 or 12 months after that implement a ban on smoking in restaurants, and then finally, after another time period has elapsed, implement the ban in drinking venues. Change behaviour gradually and get people used to the idea. Allow them to see the benefit of the coming change by showing it's positive effects in places where the ban will be easier to implement and will meet less opposition.In conclusion, 3 main points:
- everyone has the right to choose to be in a non-smoking indoor area
- change things slowly to allow people to assimilate new regulations and behaviour
- people should be able to make choices for themselves
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