I just read an article on the BBC website which details how the Royal Society for Public Health has called for a smoking ban in pub gardens and public spaces because: “smoking should be seen as “abnormal” and more controls are needed to cover areas where people gather.”, they suggest that anyone who wants to smoke in these areas should make do with e-cigarettes, that all cigarette sellers should also sell e-cigarettes, and that smoking in public places suggests to children that smoking is ‘normal’ and acceptable.
Now, I love e-cigarettes. I started smoking when I was 16, I ‘quit’ two years later and apart from when I drink/go out/feel extremely stressed I normally smoke e-cigarettes rather than regular cigarettes in day to day life. I totally dismiss claims that they are worse for you, or even as bad, as regular cigarettes because you can feel the difference when you smoke them, walking up stairs is easier, working out is easier and your lungs feel better. I’m not saying they are safe, we won’t know their long term affects for some time, but just from using common sense we can assume with our current knowledge that they are significantly better for you than smoking a real cigarette. And I think more people should try them, they should be more readily available and, perhaps at some time in the future, they will become more popular then regular cigarettes. And smoking isn’t good, aside from cancer/strokes/heart disease they can cause less harmful but still life changing daily effects, like a permanent cough, shortness of breath, and causing you to be generally less fit and more susceptible to disease.
However, this ban isn’t going to stop people smoking, or make them switch to e-cigarettes if they don’t want to. Smoking is incredibly addictive, and even if it was made completely illegal it still wouldn’t go away, you would just create a massive new underground market and your average smoker would be transformed into a criminal purely for sticking to their habit. Stopping people smoking in a beer garden won’t stop them smoking, it will just make life more annoying for them, and I don’t really see who its going to benefit. It’s not about second hand smoke, the proposers of the report admitted that this isn’t the motivation, it is more to send a message to children that smoking is wrong, and to make it harder and harder for adults to do it in the hope that they will give up and quit. But stopping people smoking in pub gardens won’t stop children smoking and will not stop children seeing adults smoke, especially as there are likely to be more children on your average street where people are still allowed to smoke then in a pub garden, people may also be physically closer together on the street (especially a narrow or a busy street) and therefore more at risk to second hand smoke then they would be sitting tables apart in a garden. If anything smoking in the beer garden is safer for non-smokers then making it so all smokers must smoke outside the pub in the street and waft their smoke at passers by, and they may actually be more visible to more children walking down the street. Children may start to smoke for a variety of reasons, and they will continue to regardless of adults now not being able to smoke in parks and pub gardens. In fact, making smoking less and less acceptable may make it seem even ‘naughtier’ then it is now, and young teenagers trying to rebel may be even more likely to turn to it.
The fact is that the dangers of smoking are well known, and everyone is aware of them. Because they are well known more and more people are choosing not to smoke, and are choosing to switch to e-cigarettes. But it has to be a choice that they make for themselves, and should not be enforced upon them. Many people are choosing to smoke e-cigarettes not because the government is making them but because their friends smoke them and they want to give them a try, or because they want to stop the harmful effects of smoking but do not want to quit nicotine or the ritual/feeling/experience of smoking, and this is a very good thing, but you cannot make people switch, the choice has to come from them. Because enforcing it won’t stop people smoking. We should teach the dangers of smoking in schools (if we don’t already) and we should encourage e-cigarette use where possible, but it is not up to the government or any advisory body to ban the use of smoking in an area that does not cause harm to anyone other than the smoker, which is quite unlikely to happen if you are not standing directly nearby the smoker and you are outside. Whatever your opinions on smoking, or whether or not you smoke yourself, the fact is that it is a legal choice that many people choose to do regardless of the health problems they will probably experience as a result, and we should advise and educate where we can but ultimately respect a persons own responsibility and ownership, if you will, of their own body. Victimizing smokers and making it more and more socially un-acceptable may discourage people from starting, but ultimately the biggest discouragement to becoming a smoker should be the health concerns, and if someone chooses to become a smoker whilst knowing these concerns I don’t think not being able to smoke in certain places is going to make a big difference. Relaxing in the park with a cigarette, or smoking in the pub garden with a drink, are enjoyable experiences for many smokers, and if there are no real health benefits to be found from banning them (which I really don’t think there is), then I see no reason why we should ban them just to punish smokers for doing something perfectly legal that only really hurts themselves.
The article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-33883188