Cigarette smoking has always been criticized as one of the major causes of serious health conditions, even those leading to fatality. Smokers are undoubtedly harmed by the toxic fumes but non-smokers are growing more and more concerned of the effects of second-hand smoke. With literature being set out that it is even more dangerous to second-hand smokers than to smokers, activists have lobbied for banning smoking on public areas. Some governments have been swayed by this threat and have created legislations for banning smoking in public places. This then draws us to the question as to why there is an ongoing debate in the issue of public smoking if it is indeed proven that this activity is one of the major causes of many illnesses in today’s society. While the government is the final authority on what laws should be implemented, it can be noted that some legislations are influenced by public opinion. According to Dixon, Lowery, Levy and Ferraro, public opinion is driven primarily by self interest especially concerning the issue of public smoking and tobacco sales taxation (241).
In analyzing this issue, we have to first analyze who are those that support restrictions against smoking in public. Secondly, we must analyze just how dangerous this is. Thirdly, we must examine the effects and lastly, whether legislation against smoking in public should be continued.
The first studies concerning this attitude was seen in Green and Gerken’s study where there is a strong positive relationship between public smoking restrictions and those who never smoked and have stopped smoking. It also affected, directly, on how much cigarette smoking bothered them. As for smokers, legislation on increased taxes for cigarette sales was strongly opposed by smokers. They then concluded that “self interest has a greater influence upon policy attitudes when the costs and benefits of a given proposal are unambiguous and fixed strongly in the minds of respondents (Dixon, Lowery, Levy, & Ferraro, 1991). When the Dixon, Lowery, Levy and Ferraro repeated and extended the same study, primarily considering smokers and non-smokers, the results were highly similar. This highlights the fact that public opinion regarding smoking in public is highly dependent on whether the respondents are smokers or non-smokers.
Further in the study is the fact that those who oppose publicly smoking tobacco are those who do not profit from the industry, those whose parents did not smoke during their youth, those whose families has had serious health problems due to smoking, and who have fewer smoking best friends. Since Illinois is not a “tobacco state” they are more likely to support the laws (244-246).
After describing the nature of public opinion on this matter, which basically falls on self-interest, we must notice how dangerous cigarette smoking is. Smoking, as known by everyone, is the leading cause of lung cancer and other diseases that are fatal to us. Since the fumes inhaled by the smokers are also exhaled, those who do not smoke but are in proximity of the smoker, are also in danger of the same noxious gases that destroy the body of the smoker. While some research state that this second-hand smoke is even more dangerous than those that the smoker inhales, there is, in truth no certainty to the matter as other literature point out that this is not true. Nevertheless, whether or not the fumes are more toxic to second-hand smokers or not, smoking is, indisputably dangerous to everyone who inhale them.
While all legislators have been swayed by the argument that smoking is fatal, there have been much debate on whether it should be banned or not. The issue of freedom of choice has rung through the entire debate from those who have vested interest. This has resulted in legislations that ban the use of these death sticks only in the public sphere. While this has satisfied some of the non-smokers who can finally walk out in the streets without having to dodge hazy nicotine clouds, those who live with smokers in their private homes remain unhappy. Some smokers on the other hand, especially chain smokers, clamor for the removal of these bans with the belief that the government has impinged on their right over their own bodies.
In this scenario we see that there is a clash of opinion on whether our own freedoms can be exercised to this extent. The argument of non-smokers is that smoking is an obvious hazard to their well-being and prompts the state for actions to restrict these activities where they could be harmed. Since the government’s responsibility is to the people, it is only logical for the government to act on this clamor. While the argument of smokers seems a legally acceptable argument, we must remember that the government is not only responsible for protecting our interests, but it also has the responsibility to look out for the public’s health and safety. We see that the reason and logic behind this regulation is that it enables the government, not primarily to protect the lives of smokers, but more geared toward the immediate concerns of the non-smokers. While this may seem unfair to non-smokers, we have to realize that smoking in private places, such as our homes, are unrestricted and therefore, smoking can still be done.
What smokers have to realize is that their own self-interest to continue smoking out in public should be curbed. It would not be hazardous to a smoker’s health if they do not smoke in public. They might not have the chance to exercise their freedom of choice, but what is more paramount in this issue is not our own freedom, but the health and safety of others who do not wish to destroy their own bodies for worldly desires.
Dixon, R., Lowery, R., Levy, D., & Ferraro, K. (1991). Self-Interest and Public Opinion Toward Smoking Policies: A Replication and Extension. The Public Opinion Quarterly , 241-254.