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Should Smoking Be Banned in Public Places?

Claire Miller is an engineering graduate who is now wading through the chaos of trying to be a responsible adult.

Should we allow people to smoke in public spaces?

Should we allow people to smoke in public spaces?

Why Do People Choose to Smoke, and What Are the Consequences?

I have done a case study on the smoking ban, which will hopefully help people see both sides of the argument and maybe even help some people realize the real risks of smoking. Smoking doesn't just carry the risk of cancer; there are plenty of other potential consequences that demonstrate why smoking is so bad. However, it's possible that implementing a smoking ban was the wrong way of getting this message across—that's for you to decide.

There are a lot of reasons why people begin smoking. Some people smoke because they have been regularly exposed to smoking, because they are curious about it, or because they simply enjoy it. Many people smoke socially or as a means of stress reduction. Whatever causes people to choose to smoke, a smoking addiction can easily develop quickly once a person starts smoking regularly. Whatever a person's reasons for starting to smoke, it can rapidly become something a person feels compelled to do in order to feel normal.

Medical research has proven that smoking causes a wide range of health problems such as lung cancer, emphysema, and cardiovascular disease. All of these health conditions could easily lead to death for the smoker. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about every 6.5 seconds, someone dies from using tobacco—that’s over 13,000 people a day on average.

WHO also posits that tobacco smoking killed an estimated 100 million people worldwide in the 20th century and predicts that smoking could eventually kill one billion people around the world during the 21st century. That would mean every four seconds, someone would die as a result of tobacco use.


Who Is Smoking?

According to statistics gathered by anti-smoking charity ASH (Action for Smoking and Health), about 10 million people in the United Kingdom (UK) smoke cigarettes. It is also said that an additional two million people—the vast majority of them being men—smoke cigars, pipes, or both. In 1948, surveys showed that eight out of ten men in the UK smoked. This was the highest level ever recorded. The highest level recorded for women was in 1966 when five out of ten in the UK smoked.

Smokers Now vs. Then

The number of smokers had decreased rapidly over the 1970s and 1980s and is still slowly falling, as the graph shows. Nowadays, about one in four people in Britain—at the age of 16 or above—smoke. The majority of these smokers are men.

Female smokers

Female smokers

Male smokers

Male smokers

Smoking and the Gender Gap

Smoking is, in most cases, about five times more likely to occur among men than women; however, the gender gap decreases with younger age. In more developed countries, smoking rates for men have peaked and begun to decline. However, for women, they continue to climb.

As you can see from the two maps above, the highest percentage of smokers are in Europe and Asia, and men make up a huge majority of them.

3 Pro-Smoking Ban Justifications

A smoking ban would:

  1. Reduce the overall number of smoking-related illnesses and deaths, including those caused by secondhand smoke.
  2. Lead to a healthier society overall because people wouldn't be negatively impacting their wellness with toxic and addictive cigarettes.
  3. Improve the quality of air in public and private spaces.

Additional Support for the Smoking Ban

The vast majority of non-smokers agree with the laws of the smoking ban. This is probably because of the obvious health risks associated with smoking, in addition to the risks posed by passive smoking and third-hand smoke.


Tobacco, when used for smoking, is often mixed with other preservatives and then pyrolysed. The vapors are then inhaled, and the active substances are absorbed through the alveoli in the lungs. The active substances then trigger chemical reactions in the nerve endings, which increase the smoker’s heart rate and impact their memory, alertness, and reaction time. Dopamine and later endorphins are then released, which are often associated with reward and pleasure. Meanwhile, though, the tobacco smoke is:

  • coating the inside of the smoker’s lungs with tar so that they become inefficient.
  • covering cilia in tar, preventing them from wafting harmful bacteria-ridden mucus out of the smoker’s lungs.
  • causing disease of the heart and blood vessels, which could lead to heart attacks and strokes.
  • causing lung cancer.
  • staining the smoker’s teeth so that they appear to be yellow in color. Brushing their teeth won't get rid of the stain.

Cigarettes contain more than 4000 chemical compounds and at least 400 toxic substances. When a smoker inhales, the cigarette burns at 700°C at the tip and around 60°C in the core. This heat breaks down the tobacco to produce various toxins. The products that are most damaging in cigarettes are:

  • tar, a type of carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer)
  • nicotine, an additive that increases cholesterol levels in the body
  • carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous gas that reduces oxygen in the body
  • components of the gas and particulate phases, which cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)

The diagram below shows just some of the health problems that smoking can cause. Most people know that smoking can cause lung cancer (it has been proven that 90% of lung cancer patients either smoke or used to smoke), but not many know about all the other health risks that smoking can cause.

Health problems that can be caused by smoking

Health problems that can be caused by smoking

  • Cancer: Not only lung cancer but also cancers of the nose, mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, stomach, kidney, pancreas, and bladder. The risk of cancer due to smoking is about 37.5%, which amounts to over one-third of smoking-related deaths.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: Also known as "diseases of the circulatory system," these include coronary heart disease, in-grown heart tissue, and aortic aneurysm. Cardiovascular disease causes poor circulation, angina (chest pains), heart attacks, and stroke. About 26.8% of all smoking-attributable deaths are due to cardiovascular disease. This amounts to over a quarter of the deaths.
  • COPD: Refers to chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis in which the airways become narrowed. This then leads to a limitation of the flow of air to and from the lungs causing shortness of breath. The risk of getting some sort of COPD as a result of smoking is about 25.5%.
  • PVD and Gangrene: Smoking damages the blood vessels throughout the body, including the extremities. Damage to the blood vessels supplying the arms and legs leads to peripheral vascular disease (PVD), which most commonly occurs in the legs and feet but can also develop in the arms and hands. Smoking causes 68% of PVD among males and 61% among females, and smoking at or before the age of 16 more than doubles the risk of developing PVD. In the later stages of PVD, open sores in the legs and feet may not heal because of poor blood supply, and this can progress to gangrene or the death of the affected tissue. In severe cases, amputation may be necessary for relief of pain and to prevent the development of gangrene.
  • Fertility Challenges: Smokers who try to conceive a baby may take up to two months longer to conceive than non-smokers. According to a report from the British Medical Association (BMA), women have a 40% lower chance of getting pregnant if they smoke. Regular and passive smoking were also responsible for up to 5,000 miscarriages and 120,000 cases of male impotence in men aged between 30 and 50 every year. There is also new evidence suggesting that smoking increases the chances of fetal malformations such as cleft lip and palate.

Health problems such as these are not just risks for the smoker, but also to people around them who are inhaling the smoke secondhand. This is called "passive" and "third-hand smoking," and it can be just as harmful as smoking.

ACOSH (Australian Council on Smoking and Health) did a test in Perth and Mandurah, which showed that many non-smokers were exposed to hazardous levels of second-hand smoke in cafes and pubs, and “after only two cigarettes in a car with closed windows, a child would be exposed to levels of smoke 70 times the levels considered hazardous.”

ACOSH tested the air quality in 28 different cafes and pubs in Perth and other towns and cities using a machine known as the TSI SidePak AM510 air monitor (SidePak for short), which measures microscopic air pollutants known as airborne particles. It was also used to measure the effects of passive smoking in cars.

The test results showed that without smokers in cafes and pubs, the average airborne particle level fell within the approved range of the US EPA Air Quality Index. But with just two or more people smoking in the alfresco areas, the average airborne particle level was significantly higher, and it reached levels that posed risks to children, pensioners, and anyone with heart or respiratory problems, such as heart disease or asthma.

The tests on passive smoking in cars showed that after just one minute of smoking one cigarette, the airborne particle level was already over five times the hazardous level. After just two cigarettes, the airborne particle level reached a massive 70 times over the levels the EPA consider to be hazardous. Even with the driver’s window completely open, the airborne particle level was disturbingly high.

ACOSH President, Professor Mike Daube, commented on these results. He said, “Even the most modest levels of smoking in cars exposes children to serious and avoidable health risks. We owe it to our kids to protect them from the very real harm caused by passive smoking. People in alfresco eating areas are also entitled to protection from this known health hazard.

“We deliberately chose to test at low levels of exposure. Even at these levels, the risks to kids and adults are simply unacceptable.”

ASH (Action for Smoking and Health), a public health campaign and charity, maintains that the ban on smoking was the only way that the health of most people could be protected effectively.


3 Reasons Against Implementing the Smoking Ban

Implementing a smoking ban can potentially have some negative consequences for people who choose to smoke:

  1. Smokers of legal age will feel that their rights are compromised by a smoking ban in public places.
  2. Smokers will feel unwelcome in pubs and other social places if they have to leave an establishment and move a certain distance away from the premises in order to smoke without violating the ban.
  3. Businesses that have a large percentage of smoking patrons may lose revenue when smokers choose to stay home rather than go to establishments that adhere to a smoking ban.

More Reasons for the Opposition to the Smoking Ban

A lot of smokers disagree with the smoking ban, and they remain firm in their belief that it is unfair.

  • Freedom of Choice: Human rights say that we should have the freedom to do whatever we want as long as it is not against the law. Smoking is legal. As long as the smoker is 18 years of age or older, they have the right to smoke if they want. The smoking ban is violating their rights by demanding that a smoker can only smoke in specified areas. In many places, designated non-smoking areas already existed prior to the establishment of the ban. Many shops and restaurants already had no-smoking rules in place. In these kinds of places, people like to feel that they can relax, get comfortable, and socialize. For many people, doing those things includes having a smoke. The smoking ban requires that people must smoke outside of establishments, so many smokers don’t bother going to pubs, shops, or restaurants. Many smokers choose to stay at home where their habit only impacts their health and the health of their families who are exposed to secondhand smoke. The smoking ban was put in place to prevent the large amount of passive smoking that non-smokers have had to put up with. Passive smoking can cause a lot of health problems and possibly even death.
  • Bad for Business: A year after the smoking ban's introduction, pub managers have struggled to keep profits up. Nearly half of the UK’s pub landlords have had to dismiss staff because of the smoking ban, and more than a third of landlords think their pub might close down if it hasn’t already. The pub trade decline is far worse than expected, as there have been some negative effects on profits, and over 75% of licensees blame the smoking ban. Pubs have been receiving fewer customers because smokers find it easier, warmer, and cheaper to have a drink at home. This way, they can smoke freely without having to go outside in the cold weather. Any family who lives with the smoker is, therefore, less likely to go to the pub for a drink as well, even if they’re not smokers.
  • Discrimination Against Smokers: FOREST (Freedom Organization for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco), an organization that defends the interests of smokers, believes the smoking ban has caused a lot of discrimination against smokers and predicted the possibilities of it doing so before the ban was brought into effect. However, the majority of organizations have only been interested in the thoughts of non-smokers, and because of that, discrimination against smokers has been ignored. Workplaces are supposed to be smoke-free now because of the smoking ban; however, many are also promoting smoke-free workplaces. They have started supporting policies where employers dismiss existing smoking workers and/or refuse to hire any other employees who smoke. This is one of the biggest acts of discrimination that has been made against smokers, and according to the opinions of many, it should not have been done. The Human Rights Act shows that discrimination in workplaces on the basis of race, gender, or religion is against UK law; however, the act does not say anything about smokers’ rights, and as a result, smokers have been suffering mass amounts of unfairness.

ASH’s Anti-Smoking Poll Misrepresents Public View

On August 22, 2005, ASH conducted a survey to see what the public thought of a ban on smoking in communal places, and the results showed that “85% of people would visit bars and pubs as often— or even more often— if they were smoke-free by law.” However, the ONS (Office of National Statistics) redid the poll, and the results showed the opposite of ASH’s findings. Figures revealed that only 31% of people wanted a complete ban on smoking in pubs and bars and that ASH combined the number of people who would visit bars more often (28%) with the number of those who said it would make no difference (57%) to get the supposed result of 85% who would visit bars “as often— or even more often—if they were smoke-free.”

ASH also did another misleading thing to their poll. Tim Lord, TMA Chief Executive of ONS, commented that “the ASH poll offers no options, only a straight 'yes' or 'no' answer to the question about support for a proposal to make all workplaces smoke-free.” This shows that ASH “is clearly piling on the pressure almost, it seems, to the point of desperation,” and that in the ambition to make the world tobacco-free, “they can't abide the fact that the British public does not support a total smoking ban.”

So, Should a Smoking Ban Be Implemented?

In conclusion to this case study, I think it is right that the smoking ban has been established. The benefits of it outweigh the disadvantages by far, and the only real argument against the ban is from the point of view of smokers.

However, the rights of smokers should be kept in mind, and discrimination against them must stop because it isn’t fair, and it is just as bad as discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, and religion. There has not been much attention paid to or support shown for smokers. Instead, non-smokers have been the only ones who are considered. Smokers are still human and should still be thought about with the greatest of considerations.

Although the ban will increase smoking at home, and therefore around the family members of smokers, two simple courses of action to limit the likelihood of secondhand smoke-related complications can be taken by family:

  1. The family member(s) who smoke can do so outside, e.g., in the backyard, garden, etc.
  2. Get support to quit smoking.

Smoking used to be thought of as just another thing to do, but now we know the risks that come along with smoking. However, for a lot of people, it is already too late—every 4 to 6.5 seconds, somebody dies from tobacco use, whether it is directly or passively. But for many others, it’s not.

Hopefully, the smoking ban will help prevent the number of non-smokers having to breathe in unwanted cigarette smoke. Perhaps the ban will even persuade some smokers to quit. Too many people are dying or developing problems related to cigarettes and the toxins they contain. It is time to take action towards preventing smoking-related deaths and illnesses, and ultimately, that is why the smoking ban was established.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


bellaquisha robinson on April 25, 2013:

yes it should be banned it is harmful to allot of people

Claire Miller (author) from UK on September 25, 2012:

Thank you manatita44. I agree with what you are saying - it's inevitable that, for as long as people smoke, non-smokers are going to be exposed to cigarette smoke every time they are out of the house. However, as a non-smoker who cannot stand the smell of cigarette smoke, I do find that the smoking ban has helped - although people do smoke at bus stops and outside shops, I haven't had to put up with it as long as, say, if they were smoking where I was eating at restaurant or pub.

I like your example of a smoker in a hospital; that's one we don't really think about from a nurse's perspective, and you're absolutely right. It would've been much easier on everyone if smoking hadn't been introduced at all. Of course, it's too late for moaning about that now, but if cigarettes weren't a factor in people's lives, there would be fewer problems.

Obviously this is my perspective. Are you a smoker? What are your views?

manatita44 from london on July 31, 2012:

I do not wish to comment on the government way, but I can reach other readers. Your hub is one of the best that I have read. Certainly practical and well researched. I could hardly add anything.

This idea of people doing what they want so long as it does not affect others, just does not wash. We are all interdependent. Smoking at the bus stop affects the bystanders there, some of whom may have an allergy or lung and heart problems. There is also a trail of nicotine smell that a non-smoker can easily pick up.

Finally, the smoker in hospital cannot avoid the nurse who has to look after him or her. The breathing problems, the chest pain, the poor oxygen because of bad lung gases, makes him/her irritable, aggressive and more difficult to nurse. It is impossible to do anything in life without affecting others, but with smoking the effects on others, even though the smoker will claim it can be avoided, is usually very obvious.

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